A few weeks ago I finished Barack Obama’s Audactiy of Hope. It was great.
A particularly interesting point was his describing his time spent with Warren Buffet. Buffet, the second richest man in the U.S., spoke about how he thinks that he and the richest 1% of Americans should pay greater taxes. He says:
[Those wealthy against higher taxes] have this idea that it’s ‘their money’ and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don’t factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society that I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner.
But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society views values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing–and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.
The free market’s the best mechanism ever devised to put resources to their most efficient and productive use. The government isnt’ particularly good at that. But the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be plowed back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, and to maintain our infrastructure, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy. And it just makes sense that those of use who’ve benefited from the market should pay a bigger share.
It is a very interesting perspective from the most successful financier ever. As our country succumbs more and more to the pressures of globalization and the need for citizens to attain “creative class” status for their prosperity, something has to give. The only solution in my mind is an unheard of investment in education–a dedication to it like no country has ever provided. And that will cost money. Mr. Buffett suggests an interesting logic and justification for where that money might come from. It will in fact be the right thing for all Americans.