ANDY SERWER: A business empire needs decisive leadership, but also a steady hand. For over 40 years, Charlie Munger has been the latter for Berkshire Hathaway. As Berkshire’s Vice Chairman, the 95-year-old Munger is Warren Buffett’s right-hand man. He’s also an investing legend in his own right. Munger ran a firm in the 1960s and ’70s that scored returns of over 24% per year. He’s here to talk about how to make investment decisions and life choices that help secure prosperity and longevity. I’m Andy Serwer. Welcome to “Influencers.” And welcome to our guest, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger. Charlie, nice to see you.
CHARLIE MUNGER: Delighted to be here. ANDY SERWER: So you just had the annual meeting. And I have to ask you what your favorite moments of that were. CHARLIE MUNGER: What I like is that both the shareholders and employees of Berkshire are so extremely enthusiastic. And it’s not just that they made a lot of money and have nice careers. They think they’re on the right side. ANDY SERWER: And, you know, they come there to hear you guys talk all day. And– CHARLIE MUNGER: Yeah, it’s like a cult. ANDY SERWER: It’s like a cult? CHARLIE MUNGER: Yeah. ANDY SERWER: In a good way, though? CHARLIE MUNGER: Yeah, a good cult. Yeah, it’s a good cult. ANDY SERWER: OK. I mean, and the stuff that they hear– some of it’s new, some of it’s old, and a lot of it is common sense. And you were talking a lot about– CHARLIE MUNGER: All of it is common sense. ANDY SERWER: Right. CHARLIE MUNGER: But of course, when people use the word “common sense,” what they mean is uncommon sense. Because the standard human condition is ignorance and stupidity. And when they say, old Joe has common sense, what they mean is he has uncommon sense. ANDY SERWER: I guess it’s a bit of a misnomer then. CHARLIE MUNGER: It really is. ANDY SERWER: So, yeah, why is it that people can’t think clearly about investing or decisions in their lives? CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, they don’t think very well about sex or gambling either. You know, I think the standard human condition has a lot of miscognition. ANDY SERWER: And there are ways to make hay of that or– CHARLIE MUNGER: Yes. You take advantage of other people. You can improve your own life by eliminating your miscognitions. ANDY SERWER: Let me shift gears a little bit, Charlie, and ask you about the US economy. And what is your take on where things are right now? CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, obviously, they’re booming. But, you know, the economy sometimes booms, and sometimes it doesn’t. And you have to live your life through both episodes. And our idea is we just keep swimming. And sometimes the tide is with us, and sometimes against. But we keep swimming either way. ANDY SERWER: Are you surprised by how long this expansion has lasted? CHARLIE MUNGER: Of course, it’s lasted a long time. But what was really remarkable is that we never printed money so much and spent it so fast and bought back so much debt, public and private. So this is total terra incognita in economics. And nobody knew for sure how it was going to work. ANDY SERWER: So was it risky then? CHARLIE MUNGER: Of course it was risky. But it worked. And I don’t think they had much else that it would work. They weren’t set up to do stimulus— too much controversy. Democratic inertia is very thin. So they had to do something. And all they had left was just to print money and start buying things. And that’s what they did. And it turned out to be a very wise response. And what’s even more remarkable is that both Congress and the presidency and both parties made the same decision. They all cooperated. It was the last time.