Friday, January 03, 2014

Books: Warren Buffett Speaks

Warren Buffett Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World's Greatest Investor
By Janet Lowe
3 hours
Copyright 1998 or thereabouts

Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, purchased my local daily paper, The Roanoke Times, back in June. That was the only reason I had interest in listening to this audiobook, which I found in my local library.

I do not know much about Warren Buffett other than he's rich and thinks his secretary pays too much in taxes, since she pays more of a percentage of her share than he does on his billions. And this book did not really help me learn much more. What I did learn was not flattering.

Perhaps I thought Buffett was a do-gooder, but based on this tape alone, he's just another capitalist in love with watching his bank numbers increase. He is lauded in this tape because he drives an old car and doesn't live in a fancy home, but just because one eschews the trappings of wealth doesn't mean that one has good morals. Based on the quotes in this collection, Buffett's morals are those which benefit only himself, and he declines to use whatever influence he may have to make changes that would truly be helpful to society at large.

I was not impressed with him as a person. He may be a great investor and rich, but the quotes on this tape did not make him sound like someone I would like or care to spend time with. According to Wikipedia (which actually has more information on him than this tape), he has pledged to give his fortune up -- when he dies. Now if he'd give it up while he was still living, then he'd be doing something.

Buffett has some newspaper experience in his history; he was a paperboy and a grandfather or somebody like that was a news editor. This explained to me why he was buying the newspapers - once that gets in your blood, you're kind of stuck with it. It's an undying love affair of sorts that never eases.

I had hoped that when BH Media bought The Roanoke Times the paper would improve but that has not proven to be the case. In this tape, Buffett talks about acquiring businesses and then making them "leaner" and that seems to be what has happened to The Times, which is just a slim shadow of it former self. Newly implemented changes to the paper's website have only made things worse.

I suppose if you are in love with money, or making money, then Warren Buffett is someone you might admire. But if your idols tend to be more along the lines of those who actually do things for others, care about others, and who make a difference in the lives of other people, then look elsewhere.


  1. My government speaks of wanting to make money as a good thing which should be encouraged in people. We should compete with one another and try to get as rich as possible. This is a lesson it is especially keen to teach children: don't do things for the good of others. Do it for money to improve your own living standards. I think those of us with more people-centred values forget that for a large number of humans, getting to be rich is a desirable objective and one to be proud of. Just about all the "leaders" of our society seem to think that way - even some "spiritual" leaders. If Buffett really does have doubts about his pursuit of wealth and whether he has become a better person because of it (and what he says and how he lives suggests a deeply conflicted attitude: perhaps he thinks that by not living ostentatiously he can cleanse his soul of greed) perhaps he should use his unimaginable wealth to set up a third party explicitly opposed to neoliberalism and the way this ideology has reduced human existence to a state of ruthless and endless competition to get ever more money.

  2. Oh yes... if he would give away his money now, it would certainly help all we middle class who are being forced to pay for the medical insurance of the poor. Guess they want us all to be poor. If he truly had a good heart and valued people more than the almighty dollar, he would help a few people. I highly doubt his wealth has made him a better person. Most of us make money merely to survive in our old age and not as a competitive game against other people.

  3. I was in hopes that he would start printing the Roanoke Times on toilet paper grade paper so that it would finally be worth buying.

  4. Ha Sad but true until near the end of the post I though you were talking about a singer then realized the singers name is Jimmy Buffet . Wrong Buffet !

  5. Wow, I'm kind of surprised. All I knew about him was the same as you--that he didn't think it was fair that his secretary was paying a higher percentage of her pay in taxes than he was. He speaks up about that and I think that's a good thing. He is a capitalist though. Most people support capitalism. Since being educated by our fellow blogger friend Jeff about capitalism, I realize how bad it is and how good socialism is. Most people are afraid to say that. Actually won't even consider it. Because we're so brainwashed by the rich corporations who control us now to think that socialism is communism and it's un-American. Capitalism is actually un-American if you think about it because it's all about taking advantage of the disadvantaged. The rich capitalize on the poor when there would be plenty for all if we weren't so greedy.


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