Sunday, February 26, 2017

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Why America Is Already Great - The Atlantic

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Why America Is Already Great - The Atlantic:

Buffett and Gates: America Is Already Great, Thanks to Immigrants
Two of the world’s three richest people extol the virtue, and relevance, of optimism in the age of Trump—and predict a comeback for fact-based discourse.

Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, and Warren Buffett, the third richest, are—not entirely coincidentally—two of the most unremittingly optimistic men on the planet. So when I met the two of them in New York recently to talk about the state of humankind, and about the future of American democracy, I had a clear understanding of my mission, which was to pressure-test their sanguinity at every turn.

I tried, and failed, though not completely. Both men appear to doubt some of President Trump’s innovations in rhetoric and policy. Both men have warm feelings about immigrants, and also about facts, and so are predisposed to react skeptically to recent developments in the capital. When I asked whether they believed America needed to be made great again, Buffett nearly jumped out of his chair: “We are great! We are great!” And when I asked about the Trump Administration’s problematic relationship with empiricism, Gates said, “I predict a comeback for the truth.” He went on to say, “To the degree that certain solutions are created not based on facts, I believe these won’t be as successful as those that are based on facts. Democracy is a self-correcting thing.”

On immigration, both men were emphatic: In explaining the success of the American experiment, Buffett said, “You had a welcoming attitude toward immigrants who then did wonders for this country.”

Despite their ephemeral worries, Buffett and Gates are both believers in the inexorable nature of progress, not only because they have been treated kindly by fate, and not only because they have concluded that America’s fortunes cannot be reversed during a single four-year presidential term, but because they have overseen a rather remarkable experiment in data-driven philanthropy. The work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, underwritten in part by Buffett’s support (in 2006 he pledged to donate $31 billion), has saved untold millions of lives. (The only person who could plausibly be credited with saving more lives in this period is President George W. Bush, who dramatically expanded the U.S. war on infectious disease during his two terms in office.) They have also overseen a remarkable experiment in peer-pressure-driven philanthropy: Their “giving pledge” encourages the world’s richest people to do as they have done, and commit much of their fortunes to good deeds. So far, they have gotten 157 pledges, which isn’t enough, but it’s something.

The impetus for this joint interview was the release of the annual letter issued by Bill and Melinda Gates on behalf of their foundation. The letter this year was addressed to Buffett, to whom Bill and Melinda Gates are profusely grateful. (Full, very MSMish-sounding disclosure: My wife works as an adviser on gender Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on Why America Is Already Great - The Atlantic:

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