Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger address the topic of capitalism at the 1996 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.
Warren Buffet And Charlie Munger: Capitalism And The Market System
Speaker: Mr. Buffett, Mr. Munger my family's been associated with Berkshire since 1968 so I asked this question with a great deal of respect for your integrity and your wisdom. I work as an inner city school teacher where there is a rising and pervasive sense of hopelessness. When I asked my students what would make you happy their predominant responses. A million dollars as some of the richest men in the world. I wonder what your response to them might be. And as a second part of this question the philosophical underpinnings of capitalism have largely ignored a systemic perspective involving issues of ongoing depletion of limited global resources exploited to sustain a market economy widening gaps between the very wealthy and the severely impoverished and an international view of America as a country whose primary values are greed and imperialism. As we move into the 21st century do you see a need to reinvasion capitalist premises towards original notions of democracy justice and humanitarian concerns.
Munger: I will say that as I am higher on the existing social order than you are, I.. There's always plenty wrong with the social order and certainly there's there are places where ours is a lot more broken than it used to be. I don't think Warren and I have any wonderful solution to all the problems of the world but wishing for a million dollars instead of some more tangible short step is the wrong frame of mind that isn't the way we got our million dollars. No I don't. Warren might give the right answer by the way.
Buffett: No I would agree with that. Wishing for a job makes makes a lot of sense to me. And figuring out how to get one and then going from there. But there is and always has been. That doesn't mean it always should be. But there is a tremendous amount of inequality. What you don't want is an inequality of opportunity. There will be a lot of inequality in ability a market system like we have. Turns out what people want if they want to watch a heavyweight fight and they want to watch. Mike Tyson they're going to pay him 25 million dollars for getting in the ring for a few minutes. And it produces what people like and it produces in abundance and it's done very well in terms of production. It is much better to be in the bottom 20 percent in this country now than it was 50 years ago and it's better to be in the bottom 20 percent of this country than in any other country. But it still isn't very satisfactory.
The market system does not reward and does not reward teachers or to not reward there's not reward all kinds of people who do all kinds of useful thing in any in any way comparable to how it will reward entertainers are or people who couldn't figure out the value of businesses or athletes or that sort of thing a market system pays very big for something that will entertain them. People want to be entertained. A good bet of the day and paid better for people that will entertain and educate. I think I don't want to tinker with the market system I don't think I should be telling people what they should want to do with their lives. But I do think that it's incumbent on the people that do very well under that system to be taxed in a manner that takes reasonable care of anybody that is not well adapted to that system that it but that it's a perfectly decent citizen in every other regard. And that is you know I don't want to I don't want to start getting the comparable worth in terms of our taxes. But I do think that somebody like me that happens to fit this system magnificently but wouldn't be worth a damn in Bangladesh or someplace you know because that what I have wouldn't pay off their system would not reward that.
I think that we get from society the society provides me this society provides me with enormous rewards for what I bring to the game. And it does the same with Mike Tyson does the same with some guy whose adenoids are ripe for singing or whatever it may be and. I don't want to tamper with that. But I do think those people who are who are getting all kinds of crime checks on the rest of society from that I think there should be a system that people are people who are not well adapted to that.