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Warren Buffett is a man who needs no introduction. As founder and chairman of Berkshire Hathway, Buffett is credited with popularising the concept of long term ‘Value investing’. An approach quite at odds with the prevailing Wall Street mentality of the time; and one which eventually led him to become the wealthiest person alive in 2008 with a total wealth estimated by Forbes to stand at over $62 Billion.
Buffett is and always has been a man of incredible contrast. As notable for the immense wealth he has accumulated as he is for the frugal, ‘everyday American’ life that he leads. Soft spoken, polite, introspective and humble, Buffett completely defies most people’s expectations of a wildly successful billionaire entrepreneur.
A Patriotic Pragmatist
During his time at the helm of Berkshire Hathway, Warren Buffett earned himself a reputation as a “Patriotic Pragmatist” and was in fact, an early supporter of outsourcing jobs overseas when there was potential to enjoy equal or higher productivity at lower costs.
“If there’s not enough growth in an industry to support all of the players, it’s in society’s best interests to have the most output produced with the least inputs – but society needs to help those who find themselves on the outside.” – Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway AGM, 1997
This stance is notable because Buffett acknowledges those who stand to lose as a result of outsourcing, but rather than espouse a protectionist viewpoint insists that those affected be helped to find suitable work rather than preventing them from having the opportunity to be retrained to more high skilled jobs. He went on to say that he felt the dangers of outsourcing were largely overstated
“I believe this has been more of a media story than a real news story. I don’t believe there’s a greater percentage of people displaced as a percentage of the work force than there was ten years ago” – Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway AGM, 1997
Buffett appears to still hold firmly onto his belief as in 2007 he shared his belief in the teachings of famed economist Adam Smith’s view that progress is most easily achieved by enabling workers to specialize and work primarily in industries that they are most suited for, instead of being limited to locally available opportunities.
“In the first chapter Adam Smith talks about “Specialization of Labor”, which talks about markets and allowing countries to specialize and work on what they are good at” – Warren Buffett, 2007
Today Buffett is a notable philanthropist, working closely with a charity run by his sister as well as being a leading donor to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. He has donated over $25 Billion to date and plans to eventually give away 99% of his total accumulated wealth to charity.