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Circle of Competence Issue #61


"Lost time is never found again." - Benjamin Franklin


Charlie Munger discusses architecture, rationality, Wells Fargo, personal routines, big tech, politics and more (Wall Street Journal)

I love reading and listening to everything Charlie Munger has to say because his mind is one of the very few I've come across that can draw ties from topics as far reaching as evolutionary biology and architecture to finance and politics. Two of the most interesting questions I picked out from the interview are below. I am surprised to see that Munger believes Facebook will weather the political storm brewing around its monopoly over social media and privacy issues (see op-ed by Facebook founder Chris Hughes below for a different take on the issue). He of course is fairly conservative so I can imagine why he may take this stance, but he offers a more historical perspective as opposed to the modern technologist point of view that Hughes takes below. 

Q: Can big tech companies survive the political pressure to break them up?

A: The answer to that is yes. I don’t think that when these tidal forces of change come in, the politicians, it’s like pissing against the tide. It won’t work. It’s just, the tide is too strong. And my maternal grandfather was in wholesale dry goods. And that had been a permanent fixture of the economic world of the United States for a quarter-century, wholesale dry goods. And when the 1920s came and the chains and Sears Roebuck’s rose, every wholesale dry-goods house in the country went broke. Nobody misses them! Nobody could stop the tide, and nobody’s going to stop the internet that enabled me to get that table for $100. And everybody’s threatened by it. And it’s not going away. And it shouldn’t go away. Those tides are important.

It’s bad for the people whose business gets hit. But it’s good for the world that the—what would it be like if we were all digging for potatoes together?

Q: A lot of young Americans seem to be turning against capitalism, on the grounds that income inequality is out of control. What can be done about that?

A: The world as I know it, from personal experience and from reading, has always concentrated power.