The Best Defense

Five centuries from now, how will historians explain what Communism was?

The passing of Hugo Chávez provides a moment to consider the question of the waning of the Communist era. The history of the origins of the Industrial Revolution that I've been reading led to that question.

My tentative answer is this: I suspect Communism, while it played a major role in the 20th century, will be hardly remembered by historians 500 years from now. After all, it was a blip empire that lasted about as long as a human life. Its significance, I am guessing, will be seen as just one spinoff from the Industrial Revolution. Maybe like global warming but far less important.

In sum: Communism may be the Albigensian heresy of our time. Sure, that belief system covered a smaller geographical area (but I think a larger chunk of the known world). And there is no question that it lasted much longer.

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The Best Defense

What Warren Buffett did in 1942: Doubled down on the future of the United States

Early 1942 was the low point of World War II, at least for the American newcomers. Britain was running out of men and arms. The United States had not really gotten in the game. Germany and Japan were triumphantly expanding, and it was thought possible they might link up in Iran or that region after Egypt and India fell.

Warren Buffett mentions in his new annual report that it was then that he began buying American stocks. He was 11 years old. "I made my first stock purchase in the spring of 1942 when the U.S. was suffering major losses throughout the Pacific war zone," he writes. "Each day's headlines told of more setbacks. Even so, there was no talk about uncertainty; every American I knew believed we would prevail."

Management tip: Buffett also gives his subordinates plenty of autonomy. In an aside, he notes that he voted for President Obama, but that 10 of the 12 daily newspapers his company owns that endorsed a candidate instead chose Governor Romney.

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