For Warren Buffett, America’s Best Days Always Lie Ahead
Warren Buffett’s faith in the promise of America remains unshaken, and he thinks yours should be, too.
The “economic dynamism” of the nation is described as no less than “miraculous” in his 2016 shareholder letter for Berkshire Hathaway released this weekend. It’s far from the first time the 86-year-old billionaire has made it his patriotic duty to remind Americans of their country’s history of resiliency. In 2008, gazing at the financial crisis through a long lens, he wrote that “fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense.” In 2015, the “negative drumbeat” of political statements about the nation’s problems led him to declare that “the babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it is. Below, culled from shareholder letters stretching from 1977 to 2016, is a sampling of Buffett’s own positive drumbeat about the marvels of American industry. For Americans fretting about the future of their country in these tumultuous times, these passages may make you feel a little better, or a little more cynical, depending on your frame of mind.
2003: “Our country’s dynamism and resiliency have repeatedly made fools of naysayers.”
2004: “We live in an extraordinarily rich country, the product of a system that values market economics, the rule of law and equality of opportunity. Our economy is far and away the strongest in the world and will continue to be. We are lucky to live here.”
2005: “The U.S., it should be emphasized, is extraordinarily rich and will get richer.”
2006: “Americans will live better ten or twenty years from now than they do today. Per-capita wealth will increase.”
2007: “America’s rule of law, market-responsive economic system, and belief in meritocracy are almost certain to produce ever-growing prosperity for its citizens.”
2008: “Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead.”
“The mother lode of opportunity”
2010: “Money will always flow toward opportunity, and there is an abundance of that in America.”
“Throughout my lifetime, politicians and pundits have constantly moaned about terrifying problems facing America. Yet our citizens now live an astonishing six times better than when I was born. The prophets of doom have overlooked the all-important factor that is certain: Human potential is far from exhausted, and the American system for unleashing that potential—a system that has worked wonders for over two centuries despite frequent interruptions for recessions and even a Civil War—remains alive and effective. … Now, as in 1776, 1861, 1932, and 1941, America’s best days lie ahead. 1 ”
2012: “On an inflation-adjusted basis, GDP per capita more than quadrupled between 1941 and 2012. Throughout that period, every tomorrow has been uncertain. America’s destiny, however, has always been clear: ever-increasing abundance.”
2013: “Though we invest abroad as well, the mother lode of opportunity resides in America.”
“Indeed, who has ever benefited during the past 237 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. And the dynamism embedded in our market economy will continue to work its magic. America’s best days lie ahead.”
“Could anyone really believe the earth was going to swallow up the incredible productive assets and unlimited human ingenuity existing in America?”
2014: “Though we will always invest abroad as well, the mother lode of opportunities runs through America. The treasures that have been uncovered up to now are dwarfed by those still untapped.”
“Though the preachers of pessimism prattle endlessly about America’s problems, I’ve never seen one who wishes to emigrate (though I can think of a few for whom I would happily buy a one-way ticket).
Gains won’t come in a smooth or uninterrupted manner; they never have. And we will regularly grumble about our government. But, most assuredly, America’s best days lie ahead.”
“America’s economic magic”
2015: “It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do.
That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
“America’s economic magic remains alive and well.”
“For 240 years it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start. America’s golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs. America’s social security promises will be honored and perhaps made more generous. And, yes, America’s kids will live far better than their parents did.”
2016: “One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous. From a standing start 240 years ago–a span of time less than triple my days on earth–Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.
You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked. Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it—they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion.”
“This economic creation will deliver increasing wealth to our progeny far into the future. Yes, the buildup of wealth will be interrupted for short periods from time to time. It will not, however, be stopped. I’ll repeat what I’ve both said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”
“American business—and consequently a basket of stocks—is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead. Innovation, productivity gains, entrepreneurial spirit and an abundance of capital will see to that. Ever-present naysayers may prosper by marketing their gloomy forecasts. But heaven help them if they act on the nonsense they peddle.”