Why is Benjamin Franklins, Charlie Munger’s hero, the ubiquitous face on the hundred dollar bill, the largest-denomination bill in circulation in the U.S. today? Why not a President – Abraham Lincoln or George Washington? And how does this “uncommon” insight help value investors to identify the resilient compounders globally and in Asia?
Even Americans who handled the familiar winking Benjamins daily are puzzled themselves when I asked them and there is no official answer as to why Franklin is honored, like a curious big blindspot. While Franklin is recognized as the only founding father who signed on all four major documents which led to the formation of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, Franklin is honored for contributing much to what is deemed most “American” about United States. He was a tireless inventor-entrepreneur solving the nation’s biggest problems and creating innovative solutions mostly from behind the scenes, having created the lightning rod, the first bifocal glasses, odometer, urinary catheter, the Franklin stove and yet he never filed for patent for all his inventions. He believed that “knowledge was not the personal property of its discoverer, but the common property of all.” Dean Kamen, the contemporary American inventor-entrepreneur of the infusion pumps for chemotherapy and treating newborn babies, the world’s first insulin pump, the technology used in portable home-use dialysis machine and many more, believe that solving problems and creating solutions create real wealth and is the essence of what makes America great for over two hundred years: “Real wealth is not a zero-sum game, like moving oil here or moving gold there.” In other words, inventor-entrepreneurs like Franklin and Kamen want to build and scale their ideas and inventions so that they can give or “empty” more. We need to “empty” ourselves before we become open to the possibilities to innovate.
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