Friday, December 18, 2009

Views from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (1)

On November 12, 2009, Warren Buffett, MS ’51, and Bill Gates met with more than 700 students from Columbia Business School in a town hall event, which was filmed for global broadcast by CNBC. Buffett and Gates responded to questions from the student body about the economic crisis, capitalism and areas of economic growth in the United States.

They also gave career advice and discussed the mentors and habits that played a role in their success. I just like to share with you some of these questions and responses that cover topics such as their immense wealth, optimistic attitudes, success and business philosophies.

Over the course of last year, was there ever a time that you had doubts about capitalism and about our way of life?

Warren Buffett Response
No, there was not a time. If there had been, last September when we invested a lot of money, that was when the country was looking into the abyss. The money was flowing out of money market funds. The commercial paper market died and everything.

We put $8 billion to work in just a matter of a few days then. So I never lost confidence in the system. This country works, you know. We got 200 years of proof. And it’s going to continue to work.

Bill Gates Response
Well, we have a complex financial system which we have proven that we can make mistakes. But more fundamental than that is the innovation, the fact that you can create new companies, that people are willing to take risk and invest, that there’s great science going on.

This country still has the best universities, the best science, and we’re going to tune our system of capitalism, you know. The idea that you have a lot of short-term loans covering long-term needs, the amount of leverage that was there, there are definitely some lessons. But the fundamentals of the system, a marketplace-driven system where we invest in education and a great infrastructure for the long-term, that’s continued.

And you know, I’ll bet there are some inventions that took place in that fall in the darkest hour: People were working on new drugs, new chip, new robots and things to make life better for everyone in the decades ahead.

Source: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates - Keeping America Great Interview / 12 November 2009 at Columbia University

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