By Basil Gala, Ph.D.
In Search of Meaning
God is Great, says the Koran, and Mohammad is His Prophet. At the beginning of each passage in the Koran, God is also declared to be compassionate and merciful. God is the creator of the world and of humans, and will be their judge on Resurrection Day. The Hebrew scriptures give similar attributes to God, who is also wrathful on occasion when His chosen people misbehave: fornicating unlawfully, worshipping idols, and neglecting to pray to Him; then God allows famine, war, pestilence, and enslavement to fall upon His people. The Christian Bible, which plagiarized the Torah in the Old Testament, speaks of all these qualities of God, who is also our Father, especially the Father of the Son, of the same substance as God, all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present in the universe. He feels pity for people on occasion, forgiving their sins, intervening with a miracle or two to cure them of deadly disease or other ills. I say, God is a great investor, and Warren Buffet is His prophet.
Pray to God, the Great Investor, and honor His prophet, Warren Buffet.
Why is God an Investor, and Warren Buffet His prophet? The prophet we know and hear; then through the prophet we learn about God Investor Almighty. We know Warren Buffet as “the Oracle of Omaha” among investors, in 2008 the world’s richest man, having surpassed Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation.
Bill Gates founded and managed Microsoft, growing it to become one of the most valuable corporations in the United States and the world. Buffet bought his company Berkshire-Hathaway, a textile company, converting it into an investment corporation. He has bought major positions (large chunks of stock) in traditional corporations, such as Coca Cola, Sees Candies, Geico Insurance, holding the stock and exerting some influence on the companies by appointing directors. He holds stocks for many years, usually not getting involved in company management. Occasionally, if one of his investments flounders, he will place a management team to run the company until it is on the right track.
Warren Buffet invests in companies he judges to be more valuable, having the potential to earn higher profits, than other investors recognize. He does not like to speculate, generally avoiding “hot” stocks in high technology. He has a following of devotees, like any bona fide prophet, who throw their chips on the same bets he has made. Nobody quite matches his performance.
Warren Buffet is God’s prophet because he has a vision of supporting men and women with his money, i.e. any resources money can buy, people capable of turning a profit in their operations, enriching their community and the world. He pledges to donate 90% of his estate to charity; in the meantime, he holds on to his money, to keep growing it for the sake of charity when he is gone. Buffet has the best of both worlds, present and promised. I follow him, clutching my money tightly, enjoying money in life, until government, charity and heirs take it, after my body is certified dead; then seeking my reward in the next world.
Prophet Buffet preaches investing in sound companies, companies with effective management teams, marketable products, continued prospects for profits, valuable assets, and low ticker prices. Investors listen carefully to him, but most of them chase after the idols of greed, quick appreciation, and speculative profits. The true and faithful zealots prosper with Buffet, holding their shares of Berkshire-Hathaway close to their hearts at about $100,000 each.
Pay close attention to the words and deeds of Warren Buffet, the Prophet, if you want to be among the chosen few who can own stocks each at a six-figure price. His sermons are of traditional economics, not momentum strategies of going with the crowd; make Samuelson’s Economics your bible, and pick your daily prayer from the Wall Street Journal.
With the help and guidance of the Great Investor, Warren Buffet performs an occasional miracle, saving from bankruptcy a desperate company, with proper intervention in the company’s affairs; otherwise, he watches over his investments from afar and above in Omaha, Nebraska. Every few years, the prophet will shift his investment from a non-performing company to one with better prospects, but as a rule he is loyal to his chosen people. Buffet’s chosen people must play by the rules and laws of the country and of business to deserve keeping his loyal support and compassion. When the people err in one of his companies, he and his God do not persecute, punish, or condemn, except by withdrawing investments.
God, the Investor, is Great; wise beyond our comprehension is He and His Prophet Warren Buffet.
Leave not the bulk of your estate to heirs, Buffet preaches; leave it to worthy causes that do good works, avoiding inheritance taxes. Invest most of your earnings and re-invest appreciated assets, trading up to avoid capital gains taxes. Life is short, but not for well-managed and well-positioned corporations, like Coca Cola or Geico Insurance; own stocks in corporations with unlimited life spans.
Like Mary Poppins, Warren Buffet is very nearly perfect, at least as an investor. His God is the ideal of perfection in investment knowhow, as He is our ideal for other attributes: wisdom, knowledge, kindness, and power.
What we sense about God is an entity like Nature, laying down laws, rules, or regularities in the phenomena we observe, regularities such as gravitation, electromagnetism, relativity, evolution, or justice. Make use of the laws of Nature or God; you are more likely to succeed, flourish, survive. Ignore the rules; you are not going to be around for long as a living person or an investor. Democritus, 600 B.C., spoke of necessity and chance ruling the world. The laws are necessary; but chance is behind the scenes, churning events. Even the most regular phenomena possess random elements. Who expected venerable Citigroup to lose billions in mortgage securities? As an investor, you face risk; the greater the apparent risk, the larger is the profit potential, because risk scares off others, afraid of it more than you are. You can take calculated risks, as Warren Buffet does, to succeed more often than timid people in investments.
God likes to play dice with the universe, to misquote Einstein on quantum mechanics.
Why so? God-Nature challenges every living thing to change, evolve, getter better; He gives us all random testing, even investors, especially with investors, because He is the ideal, Great Investor. We face the unexpected, even the bizarre, outcome in our investments at irregular intervals. The business cycle puzzles us, with a recession starting the moment our head is turned away from the economy, or a big boom in assets and profits, when we are on a long vacation. Thus God-Nature promotes and distills our spirits, separating the sheep from the goats: those who are to continue His works from those cast aside to oblivion.
Some people believe God arranges events to determine our fate; others, say Nature is a blind force, acting on its own, with no regard for us favorable or unkind. Certainly, God is a passive investor in the universe, in our own lives, and our societies, letting chips fall where they may, allowing us the freedom to succeed or fail; on rare occasions, He appears to intervene in our affairs, performing a small or large miracle that we do not expect from blind chance. Is that not how life emerged on our planet billions of years ago?
Science explains the vast majority of phenomena we observe through the actions of natural laws, without Divine Intervention. A few events we encounter are puzzling for science and reason. Such is the appearance every century or so of a gifted person, talented with skills, imagination, creativity of fantastic proportions: Democritus, Archimedes, da Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Shakespeare, Gauss, van Beethoven, Einstein, and such, luminaries who guide our progress to the future. A rare combination of genes explains such phenomena for some commentators; for others, such innovators and creators are miracles of God.
By and large, God applies the Star Trek principle of non-intervention on our planet. We are free agents to determine our own fate, good, bad, or indifferent. Like Warren Buffet, God is an investor allowing us the managers of our world to make own decisions freely, and take credit or blame for our mistakes. If we manage poorly, we simply lose out on resources to carry on with our lives.
We should take this lesson to heart in considering the use of Earth’s resources; they are finite, and spoilable. When the forests are gone from the face of our lands, their cool comfort does come back readily; when the ozone layer is depleted, when with excess CO2 planetary warming has run away, when the oceans, land, and air are polluted, our blue-white planet is not as hospitable and profitable for humans or other living things. Then without recrimination or wrath, God invests His resources in a different planet, with better managers of operations than Homo sapiens.