Site Meter

Author: Guy Spier

7

Warren Buffett: Practical Philosopher of Capitalism

Lawrence Cunningham’s Essays of Warren Buffett is a useful and well-ordered collection of Buffett’s thinking on a number of topics.  As such, it serves as a profoundly useful textbook of clear thinking for corporate America.

The book also highlights an aspect of Warren Buffett to which less attention is paid now than will be in the future. That is of Warren Buffett as history’s greatest Philosopher of Practical Capitalism.   

In the last decade many people have lost trust in our capitalist system.   Yes, we like the material abundance that it generates, but who can subscribe to and defend the rampant, unchecked, and amoral version of capitalism that we have seen recently?

We are all too familiar with the cast of ugly characters:  The bankers who lost millions while still collecting their outsized bonuses, Bernie Madoff who masqueraded behind his façade of public spirited financier and philanthropist while he was actually ripping off widows and orphans.

How can we subscribe to a version of capitalism that seems to regularly allow the greedy to endlessly and senselessly enrich themselves while bringing the rest of us to the brink of financial ruin?  Although many of us were brought up on Adam Smith’s invisible hand and the free market of Milton Friedman that delivers goods, services, welfare and justice to all, the way this has played out practically over the last decade is indefensible. 

In a bygone era this unpleasant side of free market capitalism was at least part of what drove Karl Marx to write Das Kapital, and what led to whole societies practicing Socialism, creating so much of the human misery of the last century.

For those of us who still believe in capitalism, free markets and maximum individual liberty as expounded by John Stuart Mill, what is the answer to these excesses? Can we not find a new Milton Friedman, Hayek or Adam Smith for this century? Someone who intelligently and charismatically clarifies why big government and more regulation are not the answer. Read More