Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Warren Buffett And Noblesse Oblige

John writes, regarding Warren Buffett:
The man has a level of conscience unusual for the wealthy....
For myself, I suspect this attitude was much more prevalent in generations past – noblesse oblige. Aristocracy wasn’t always a harsh thing.

Nevertheless, there has always been the danger that the rich and privileged would reject obligations, particularly as they often saw no connection between their supposedly-self-made station and the surrounding society. Capitalism aggravates these tendencies. Today, Buffett looks like a freak, but 250 years ago, freaks were common.

John replies:
True enough. Carnegie left the lion's share of his wealth to charities and civic organizations, but as a businessman he was ruthless. Still, even among the robber barons, there was an attitude that they were building a great nation even if they were running over people in the process. The attitude now among Wall Street types is that they want the money for themselves because they deserve 8 or 9 figure annual salaries for whatever they do even if it wrecks the economy. It's remarkable, is it not, that today's investment bankers almost make the Jay Gould's and John Rockefeller's of the 19th century look like Mother Theresa?

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