Gongol.com Archives: July 2024

Brian Gongol

July 4, 2024

The United States of America The luckiest child

It was in the context of an annual meeting of shareholders during which Warren Buffett was asked about his confidence in the American economy in light of the "CNBC" threats: Chemical, nuclear, biological, and cyber. The question was raised in 2015, more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks and a few years after Mitt Romney had been mocked for pointing at Russia's government as a leading source of threat. ■ Buffett's response, though it was offered as business analysis rather than a patriotic rallying cry, remains applicable today, almost a decade later: "The economic system is enormously powerful; there will be fits and starts, but imagine what a flyover tour of the country would have looked like in 1776. Everything that's been developed since that time is profit." ■ "People fret about a 2% economic growth rate," continued Buffett, "but with a 1% population growth rate that still results in major growth over time. But great growth can be negated by the work of madmen, and we need an extremely vigilant security operation in the US. The country will do extraordinarily well if we ward off those threats or at least minimize their impact." He's been proven right economically: Despite incredible setbacks like the Covid-19 pandemic, the US economy is 16% larger on a per-person basis than when Buffett was asked. ■ But economic growth isn't the only measure that counts. It's a massive contributor to human welfare, of course, but so are factors like personal liberty, cultural development, and the capacity for individuals to flourish to the greatest extent their own gifts and abilities will allow. ■ And on that measure, Buffett offered words that are about as patriotic as anything ever said on American soil: "The luckiest person in history on a probabilistic basis is the baby born in the US today." The challenge to all of us who are heirs to the American experiment is to ensure that the trend continues -- so that the baby born in 2024 is luckier than the baby born in 2015, and that the baby born in 2033 is luckier still. ■ None of it is assured; that speaks to a process of self-improvement, not an inflexible outcome. Every Independence Day should be a reminder to strive to overcome imperfections -- "God mend thine every flaw" -- and to apply our own self-control in the pursuit of becoming better.

Feedback link