The Persistence of Rancor
One can only wonder what it is that Charles Munger, the 88-year-old investor par excellence and right-hand man to Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, could conceivably lack in this worldly life. Considering that he is unfathomably wealthy; suavely, laconically self-assured; magisterial in the confident deliverance of his opinions; and apparently healthy -- enough even to be disdainfully unconcerned about the prostate he imagines is probably unsound -- the answer is: not much.
Well, then, engorged with the late-in-life surge of what recrudescent bilious enzyme did this senescent fiscal seer decide to recklessly spite the Jews of 1939 Austria? In an interview on Friday with Becky Quick of CNBC (the link is here; comment at issue begins 8m:50ss), Ms. Quick asked, with reference to David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, "Einhorn used this whole thesis that he had ... to say that in a normal situation like this, he would be buying stocks, selling bonds, and selling gold. But because he doesn't trust the Fed, he says he's buying gold right now. Is that a thesis that makes sense?" This Nebraskan Midas, whether by accident or design clearly no longer holding tight the reins of his internal censor, opined as how
"Well, not to me. Gold is a great thing to sew into your garments if you're a Jewish family in Vienna in 1939, but I think civilized people don't buy gold, they invest in productive businesses."Hmmm. He packs a pretty good kick for an ornery old jackass, give him that. If you don't thing buying gold is smart, Mr. Munger, you could have just said so.
Dazzlingly irrelevant to his topic, and as mortifying as the voluble gaucherie of a young child breaking the silence of a funeral, Mr. Munger's insulting slap outlines his mental innards like a CAT scan. Even the insensate oyster smooths the sharp irritant with pearl if he cannot disgorge it. But after nearly nine decades, this ancient human mollusk apparently hasn't been able to do either with that nasty little pebble marked "Jews." Proof positive, if any were necessary, that worldly smarts need have no nexus to ordinary human grace.
Don't "apologize," Mr. Munger, don't tell issue a statement saying what you "meant," or that you're sorry "if you offended" anyone. Please just don't bother, because it would be baloney. And please don't tell us that it is Einhorn you meant to say is "uncivilized," and not those sneaky European Jews who had the gall to want to live. And who had to exercise, by the way, more nerve to make it through every 1930's sunup than you've needed for a lifetime's worth of buy orders.
The Jews of Vienna -- and of the rest of Europe -- were my people. And they had to frantically try to save themselves and emerge with their lives from the crushing vise of one of history's most merciless horrors. So very many didn't make it. Their agonies, and all they had to do to survive, are not properly after-the-fact grist for the latter-day mills of smug financiers. And any desiccated fool -- from the safe, unassailable remove of the far side of a long life of comfort and plenty -- who would mock them, as this one does, is not only a coward, but also a cosmic loser, no matter how rich he is.