Monday, August 16, 2010

Buffett 1, Randroids 0

WARREN BUFFETT: Reasonable return is good enough, Charlie. I mean,
50 years ago, I was looking for spectacular returns, but I can’t-- I can’t
get them. We have-- we have eight or $10 billion to invest every year.
And we’re in the utility business, and it’s the same thing there. When we
build electric generation or something of the sort, we shouldn’t expect a
spectacular return. We’re building things that are essential to society,
and people need our services. They really don’t have any choice in the
case of the electric utilities, for example, and sometimes in case of rail.
And we should get a decent return on that. Enough to encourage us to keep
putting money into the business, but we’re not entitled to spectacular
returns.




I'll never say that a billionaire like Warren Buffett is the best guy EVAR or anything, but it would be a better America if more wealthy people were like him than like.. well, like the rotten soulless Randroid robber baron fuckfaces they are. And I don't say that because Buffett has famously pledged to bequeath his wealth to charity (a move progressives massively overrate), but because he invests the right way: long-term, and conscious of externalities and obligations.

Even better, he doesn't pretend that people have total freewill within this system. The Big Lie upon which libertarians in general and Randroids in particular base their entire venal world-view is that everyone is "free to choose" every transaction they take. Buffett, a utility owner, understands that people have to have electricity and that this gives him monopolistic or oligopolistic power over consumers, so he'd better deliver the product dependably, and he'd better not gouge people. Longtime students of Buffett will also know that he thinks this way not because of morally (maybe there should be a "just" in there) but because his "take the long view" business sense tells him the little people can't be abused for too long because if they are they will eventually throw the big people up against the wall.

This power structure is what Zizek means, incidentally, when he's talking about rent, which is what the common person is effectively forced to buy in order to function in society: food, shelter, electricity, water, health care... and also, more and more, certain technologies like computers and televisions (by the way, the Red Cross agrees that a TV qualifies as a "necessity") that facilitate what he calls "participation." When you have to have something you're not "free to choose" that something. It's at this point that the libertarian/Randroid will splutter something like "the Amish do it!", which is so ridiculous that it proves their bad faith. In my dream social democracy people like Buffett exist, own property, make money, are taxed accordingly; meanwhile, Randroids and libertarians, who believe there is "no such thing as society" get their wish and are removed from society -- straight to the fucking gulag.

Adding:

WARREN BUFFETT: ... but we’ve got -- we’ve got almost 60 million
people living in households where 20 -- the top income is $21,000 or less.
That’s the top of the 60 million people. So we can do better. Now, we
have done better over time. I mean, we put in Social Security and we’ve
done things in the country that have worked in the direction ...

CHARLIE ROSE: Medicare and Medicaid.

WARREN BUFFETT: Yeah.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah.

WARREN BUFFETT: But a prosperous country should not just be
prosperous for the people like me who are wired in a particular way at
birth -- no credit to me -- but I happen to know something about capital
allocation. It wasn’t, you know, I could have instead -- I could have been
-- I could have been wired, you know, so I was, you know, I don’t know -- a
great ukulele player. But there’s more money ...


The above quote shows that Buffett understands and rejects the social Darwinist root of libertarianism; the following quote shows he understands and rejects the libertarian/Randroid denial of society infamously enunciated by Margaret Thatcher:


WARREN BUFFETT: And you don’t want to mess up the market system that
works to bring out of people what their best talents are, but the market
system is not perfect in any kind of distribution of wealth. And taxation
is a way where you get to the excesses of what the market system produces
and where you take care of the people that get the short straws. In a
country as prosperous as we are, nobody should get a really short straw.

CHARLIE ROSE: You know, some people are going to hear you say that
and they’ll say, "Warren is talking about sharing the wealth. There he
goes .."

WARREN BUFFETT: Well, I’m talking about sharing the prosperity.

CHARLIE ROSE: You’re ...

(CROSSTALK)

WARREN BUFFETT: I’m prosperous because of the society around me.
Stick me down in some poor country and I’ll walk around and say I allocate
capital, you know, and they’ll say, so what? What we need is a guy with a
strong back. You know, and I don’t have a strong back.

CHARLIE ROSE: But can you row a boat or something?

WARREN BUFFETT: Yeah. Something like that.

CHARLIE ROSE: Right.

WARREN BUFFETT: So -- so society -- listen, when a couple of
middleweights fight it out on Pay Per View this weekend and get $49.95 from
me, or whatever it maybe, and I can’t remember their names two weeks later,
you know, they are benefiting not because of their own talent that much,
but because some guy invented television and then invented cable
television, and learned how to change a stadium of 15,000 people into a
stadium of 300 million. So they benefit from society. We all do. And
some like me benefit enormously from society, you know. I can’t do it by
myself. Stick me on a desert island, you know, you do not want to be on
the same island.

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