Erick Erickson: Kissinger and Munger
The perspectives and thoughts expressed in this op-ed are the exclusive purview of the author.
Charlie Munger and Henry Kissinger are dead. Munger died 34 days before his 100th year. Kissinger crossed into his 100th year in May of this year. Both are generational lights, one in business and the other in statecraft. Their deaths are a reminder that even the greatest among us cannot escape the veil of eternity.
Munger’s legacy is less complex. He served as Warren Buffet’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway. Munger convinced Buffet to change his investment style, which led to a 60-year partnership and billions of dollars in wealth creation. Munger, known for his quick wit and unwavering work ethic, was working just days before his death.
Munger convinced Buffet to, in Buffet’s words, “Forget what you know about buying fair businesses at wonderful prices; instead, buy wonderful businesses at fair prices.” The quotable Munger would let Buffet be the face of Berkshire Hathaway and the voice, but behind the scenes was known to talk at length, mentor many and grow wealth. He was unashamed of it. He saw wealth as a means of independence.
Kissinger is more complicated. The ghouls rushed out within minutes of the announcement of his death to denounce him and metaphorically drag his body. Many an atheist suddenly championed a belief in hell upon hearing of Kissinger’s death. Reality is more complicated than the Left’s religious aversion to national interest, and Kissinger always embraced the national interest.
Kissinger advised every American president going back to John F. Kennedy — a quarter of the presidents. Former President Barack Obama, a progressive mentored by a communist, disdained Kissinger in large part because Kissinger helped build a post-World War order that put the United States on top. To progressives like Obama and those now championing Palestinian terrorists as victims of colonization, a world dominated by the United States is an oppressed world where some are oppressors, and some are oppressed.
In a sane world, Munger and Kissinger together would be praised. The business community will praise Munger. Diplomats will praise Kissinger. But the cultural elite who disdain the accumulation of wealth and diplomacy in the self-interest of nations will abhor both.
The reality is that the world is better off because of both men. Kissinger, in the chaotic world ushered in after World War II, sought to assert American interests on the world stage. He made deals with dictators and helped overthrow regimes that backed the Soviets. Kissinger helped reinvigorate the Monroe Doctrine during an era of Soviet expansion and negotiated an American relationship with China to counter the Soviets.
Kissinger is vilified by the Left not because he committed war crimes, as they claim, but because he successfully advanced American interests against communists and structured a world wherein the United States could put the Soviet Union on the ash heap of history.
Munger provided ample examples of common sense in convoluted markets — advising that money is made in the waiting, not the buying and selling. His strategy was to buy and hold and find value. He and Buffett have outperformed the markets through patience and a willingness to try to figure out what they did not know. But by being a successful capitalist who grew wealth, the Left would have us believe Munger was greedy. His success, like Kissinger’s on the nation’s behalf, must be devalued.
Both men were realists. They saw the world as it is and sought to make it better. Today, we are surrounded by weak-minded whiners who confront a world as they want it to be instead of as it is. Business titans foist ESG standards on the free market, degrading the performance of companies through woke values. Diplomats think making kissy-face with terrorist regimes like the mullahs of Iran can win peace. They value themselves more than those around them and have convinced themselves of their superiority.
All of us will die. But it is sad to lose a Munger or a Kissinger when so many of the younger elite who replace them chose to learn nothing from them, are convinced they know better and will leave the world worse than they found it. We need more Charlie Mungers and Henry Kissingers and fewer Larry Finks and Antony Blinkens.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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Last Updated: Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 12:04:41 -0800
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