Charles T. Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has been Warren Buffett’s sidekick since 1959. While Buffett made a name for himself as a statesmanlike critic of inept auditors, see-no-evil regulators, fee-gouging money managers and greedy CEOs, Munger gradually emerged from Buffett’s shadow to tongue-lash those same targets mercilessly.
Munger, 87, delighted in ripping open the disappointing realities of economic life to reveal them as he saw them. No one but he would say, as he did recently, that if he ran the European Union he would never have let in Greece, a country full of people who “are raising hell about having an adult life” and who feel that “having a job ruins eight hours a day.”
A man who speaks this way is going to make enemies. Buffett, 80, has made his share, but Munger has a higher tolerance than Buffett for being disliked. He has come to play a role in the business world not unlike that once played by the critic H.L. Mencken, who stabbed the puffed-up preservers of the status quo with the sharp needle of searing, unforgettable prose.
I’ve heard Munger called hypocritical, heartless and pompous. Munger describes himself as imperious, irreverent and arrogant. It’s good to have somebody like that around. The business world is better off with a Munger to point out how far it has strayed. The people who control the world’s commerce need to hear it from one of their own.
Raisins and TurdsBesides, nobody else would say a lot of the entertaining things that have come out of Charlie Munger’s mouth, such as when, in 2000, he criticized bankers who foisted worthless Internet stocks on the public by saying, “If you mix raisins and turds, they’re still turds.”
_Wall Street has long been a favorite target of Munger’s, and it holds a special enmity for him. He’s called bankers megalomaniacs, bucket-shop operators and evil. Whatever the latest Wall Street money-making scheme, up rose Munger to decry it. His latest volley was to say that it’s like letting “rats loose in the granary” to allow high frequency trading in stocks, which should be considered legalized front-running.
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