Chris Matthews has led an extraordinary life, serving as White House aide and speechwriter to President Jimmy Carter, before spending 13 years as Washington Bureau Chief for the San Francisco Examiner. He’s authored best-selling books, and is presently the host of Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show. Chris moderated a discussion between investment guru Warren Buffett and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the state of the world economy.
Beginning on a personal note, Chris admitted that his primary role at home was making the lattes each morning. His wife, Kathleen, not only runs the household, but also serves as Executive Vice President of Global Communications and Public Affairs for Marriott International and was recently involved with an initiative led by Marriott to save over a million acres of rain forest in the Amazon.
- Women own half of all the small businesses in America
- Women owned businesses are the fastest growing sector
- 80% of the purchasing decisions are made by women
As the most famous and successful investor of our time, Warren Buffett has amassed a fortune in the tens of billions. In 2006 Mr. Buffett announced plans to give away most of his fortune, some $37 billion, donating approximately $31 billion of that amount to the Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to addressing severe health and education issues in the poorest nations. Warren was introduced by Chris with his famous quote on stock market timing:
“Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful.”
I must wholly concur on the first part, as we’re experiencing the results of unbridled greed in the financial markets, and while I understand the meaning of the second phrase, and its relationship to market timing, in my opinion being greedy never pays a dividend to the planet as a whole.
When asked about the wisdom of putting money in the stock market during volatile times, Warren’s basic message was that “this country works“, and over the long haul investing in stocks will always outperform investments in cash accounts.
Current Financial Crisis
Commenting on the popular issue of excessive CEO compensation, Warren replied:
“I have no quarrel with people making a lot of money, but
I do have a quarrel with people failing and making a lot of money.”
While it’s true that most Wall Street executives have seen their net value decline during this crisis, there have been no calls in Congress for any of these individuals to give back the millions they made while blatantly selling toxic financial packages to investors around the world, and certainly no call for them to foot the bill for the resulting damage that is now making its way into developing nations.
“You want to buy stock in a business that’s so good
an idiot can run it, because sooner or later one will.”
Why We Succeed in the World
These were mentioned by Warren as the three factors which have allowed human potential to be unleashed in America to an extent greater than anywhere in the world and at any time in our history. It is interesting to note that he also stated we had missed out on 50% of our potential for nearly 200 years, as women were not allowed to contribute to the economy in significant numbers until the 20th century when they secured the right to vote. The fact that two women made history with their inclusion in the 2008 presidential election was proof that tremendous strides continue to be made.
But it was the relatively unfamiliar term meritocracy that was mentioned by other speakers during the conference, and it deserves a bit of elaboration. According to Wikipedia:
Meritocracy is a system of a government or another organization wherein appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and ability (merit), rather than by wealth (plutocracy), family connections (nepotism), class privilege (oligarchy), cronyism, popularity (as in democracy) or other historical determinants of social position and political power. In a meritocracy, society rewards (by wealth, position, and social status) those who demonstrated talent and competence, demonstrated through past actions or by competition.
Meritocracy will be covered at length in a future post, but I would offer at this time the opinion that there have always been limitations to America’s version of meritocracy, as the other organizational examples listed are still alive and well in America – it’s not always about merit, and much work remains to be done in improving our system of government and methods of conducting business.
That said, most economies and their associated governments in the developing world are in need of an even more significant overhaul. But someone needs to play a key role in moving the world forward on this important issue, and the question that I must ask is:
Does the United States have the passion, vision & capability to be a leader?