Munger: Strong Leadership

CNBC’s Becky Quick spent this past weekend in Omaha, Nebraska where she interviewed Berkshire’s Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger extensively. We saw parts of her segments on CNBC this past Monday; perhaps you did as well? In it Becky started off asking Munger whether he agreed with Michael Lewis’s assertion that the Volker Rule needs to have more teeth. His response?

“I totally agree. If I were making the rules, I would make Michael Lewis look like a piker.”

We like Charlie Munger. He has strong character, strong opinions, and he is the type of leader we need in Washington. Things would get done. Much of the danger and crises that cropped up over the past 25 years did so because corporate and banking insiders got into the ears of wishy-washy weak rule-makers. Lobbying has become America’s fastest growing business. Well aside from high frequency trading, that is…

And on that topic, Munger also weighed in:

“Take the rapid fire trading by the computer geniuses… those people have all the social utility of  a bunch or rats admitted to the granary. I never would have allowed the rats to get in the granary. I don’t want the brilliant young men of America being rats in someone else’s granary. That’s not the right way to run the Republic, and if you let me write the law, that wouldn’t happen. If we changed the incentives, a lot of this regrettable behavior would go away.

“There would be less gambling and productive investment and more long term thinking and less of short-term trading frenzy. We do a lot of things that are literally insane. Once you allow this wrong culture to be entrenched and be remunerative, you create political power that protects activities that are regrettable. What good is it doing civilization to have people “clipping” money through computer algorithms that work a lot like legalized front-running of orders? Why has the situation gone on as long as it has? Both parties are getting a lot of donations from these people.

Listening to folks like Charlie Munger, R.T. Leuchtkafer, Senator Ted Kauffman, as well as the good people at Better Markets, gives us hope that change can be effected for the good of all Americans, and not just those who implement the best “regulatory capture.”

We need leaders at our regulatory authorities to understand that they will not affect positive change for all Americans and fix conflicted and dangerous practices on Wall Street by co-writing the rules with the very Wall Street insiders that profit from the current status quo.

And we need leaders at our stock exchanges who are strong like Munger – who will do what is right for the long term, and not just next quarter’s profits.