Charlie Munger: Value Investing, Bitcoin and China (2018)



I'm here with Charlie Munger vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Charlie great to see you nice to be here I want to continue with some of the questions that people were asking you at the annual meeting and start maybe with China and trade and tariffs and you said that even Trump can be right on some of this stuff well yes when people get mad enough at one politician they get thinking everything he says and does is wrong and that's never the case what what would go ahead continue I'm sorry and all I said was that you don't want to be such an absolute purist for free trade I'm almost a purist but not quite but I wouldn't want the entire steel industry in the United States to move offshore there's someplace where you could draw a line without ruining the world what should our trade policy be then I mean yes China can be unfair is unfair but how would we pursue this well I was entirely different from our presidents I'm glad that we ran a big trade deficit with China that enabled them to rapidly get out of poverty and obscurity I welcome the Chinese to the group of advanced nations which I think we enabled considerably by our willingness to to trade with them as they moved ever upward in terms of complexity of enterprise so I like what's happened I don't regard it as unfair and bad I'm not saying that that that it would be unthinkable to have some tariffs somewhere but basically I'm a free trader and I am particularly a free trader in dealing with China and I like the fact that free trade with China has enabled China to expend so much and they got out of poverty they had hundreds of millions of people in rural poverty and they made huge in the whole history of the world no big nation as that were advanced faster than China and this free trade helped them do it and I like it but aren't they unfair to us just to follow up on you know I'm sure there are places where somebody in China has some advantage or somebody in the United States that you and I might not like perfectly but that will always happen but but basically the Chinese broke the berkshire hathaway shoe business in maine it disappeared basically because their shoes were very good and cheaper I'm not mad at China or that and Berkshire has prospered it's not so good for Maine but we can't help it there's no way to make an advanced civilization never hurt anybody as it evolves there's a lot of talk about an elephant that Berkshire is on the hunt for a big acquisition could that elephant be in China and if it was could you even buy it given the relationship between the two countries right now I don't think it's likely that we'll be buying any great Chinese companies the Chinese are very proud of their companies they're proud of what they've accomplished what I consider quite likely is that we will invite be invited to buy part of some great Chinese company and just because they like the good company and I think that is very likely to happen at some time and we would welcome what we own the nori positions in a lot of companies we own oven already position and BYD let me ask you then about byd and Chinese cars when will Chinese cars be allowed in the United States and what's holding it up as a bureaucracy well auto market is very competitive and very fully occupied and of course nobody in the United States wants to lose our last two big domestic suppliers manufacturers the bottles well three if you want to cover Ferrari Chrysler and so it's hard for somebody new to come into the American market big and and China has such a big market of its own that my guess is though stay busy in their own part of the world for a long time so that's a priority for BYD oby DS biggest advantages in the electric cars where they are so close to the cutting edge of battery technology and so they'd be crazy not to emphasize the hybrid in the electric cars over the gasoline cars not that he'll go out of the gasoline market but I think they will be biggest in the hybrid and electric cars speaking of electric vehicles what do you think about Tesla is that company going to become a major player well it's already created more significance than anybody would have predicted and its founder is bold and brilliant and swings for the fences and of course people like that get some remarkable results and sometimes they get some quick failure and I haven't the faintest idea how yeah unless he's gonna turn out but I think he's got a considerable chance of success and a considerable chance of failure he seems to like it that way have you considered overnight Elon Musk getting into the candy businesses he suggested he might do on Twitter I didn't hear that it sounds like wise I'm sorry I can't criticize anybody else for wise essary let's talk about shift gears a little bit and talk about the single-payer health care system that you mentioned and I think you said that when the Democrats if / when the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency Oh would have to be that all three okay so but you really I think it will happen okay I mean every other advanced Western nation has it different types no I don't think my prediction is that radical so it could happen in two years even then and we would start having actually everybody is disenchanted with the bureaucracy I'm cost and foolish results in our own culture our own medical system is that an instance where bureaucracy has just taken over an entire industry bureaucracy plus entrenched interests were profiting on this an existing system of various way I come from California if everybody in the nation had Kaiser health care as we have it in California the net quality of medicine in the United States would go way up and Kaiser has never been able to succeed very much outside of California because the entrenched vested interests stomp on it because of its success in California you're talking about a field where the entrenched interests are making a lot of money they don't want to change you wouldn't either if your livelihood depended on and so of course it's very hard to change our system the reason the Singapore system is so much better than ours is they didn't have a lot of entrenched interests the worth of that powerful and and they had a brilliant leader where system costs about a fifth of what ours cost and serves better is the healthcare endeavor that you're working on with JP Morgan the Berkshire is working on with JP Morgan and Amazon could that be a template or evolve into a single payer system no I think a single payer system comes because the government ordained sit so I think all they're trying to do is make the existent existing system better you remember that Johnny your control over the first by spending fifty million dollars way back decades ago utterly revolutionized American medical care he got all the charlatans out of the medical profession by changing all the state laws and he and all the medical schools imitate Johns Hopkins which had notated Germany and when his fifty million dollars was spent the whole of American medicine improved enormous Lee no he did that as a public service and and not many people realize how much public service JD rock and roll the first created and so what Berkshire and its partners are trying to do is a little bit like Rockefeller did oh and none of them was we would be doing this just to make money this is a public service activity so that was somewhat of an inspiration what is for me I don't know they may have had three different aspirations but I've always admired what Rockefeller did and the man who talked him into it Simon's listener also created Einsteins home with the advanced that Institute and Princeton but it was a huge Bill Gates who's such an interesting man all he hopes to do is someday do about half as much as Rockefeller did he knows how what an achievement that was the timing was perfect let me ask you about Wells Fargo it sounded like you and Warren or standing by your bank at this point but I wonder you know at what point is enough enough and how do you decide when a company is just okay this is not going to turn around we're going to abandon ship here well I don't think for a minute that Wells Fargo is in any way rotten to the core they just had some incentive programs that that caused some bad behavior and then they reacted reacted poorly to trouble when it came so they made mistakes of judgment but I think you'll find them that they hate what's happened so much they'll be less likely to make mistakes in the future and not more likely I actually think this is good for well sortable I'm a very long term basis it's agony to go through but but they're gonna be better for it let me ask you about Ted Weschler and Todd combs and you and especially Warren talked them up and say what great managers they are and and how smart they are and I guess the proof will be in the pudding at some point down the road do you see eye to eye with their investing philosophy I don't even follow a lot of it just because one of them buys some security doesn't mean I start studying at great length but I know them well they contributed enormous ly because they're talking to Warren all the time and as I said at the meeting he's way better for it so am i we would not have bought that Apple stock if one of the young investors had not steered us that way so does he have an orange conclusion in the end but it was prompted by one of the young men they've been enormous ly constructive and they helped in a whole lot of ways they both think totally about the shareholder interest people coming from investment of marvel's securities are always thinking about what's good for the shareholders and they're just a marvelous influence to have somebody to people smart and young around Berkshire with that extreme orientation and they're not just doing pretty well with the money they're investing there favorably influencing the investment there they're not in charge o for instance the Apple investment but would in other words does it change the investing philosophy of Berkshire so Berkshire and Warren and you were known as value investors is that not the core discipline of Berkshire Hathaway anymore or does that not even matter you got to remember in our way of thinking all intelligent investment is value investment because why would you want to buy something which wasn't worth as much as you were paying for it and who wouldn't like buying something for less than it's worth so the only difference when people talk about valuing destiny you're always being a value investor now there are various ways to look for value investments just as their various places to fish and of the food first rule of fishing is to fish where the fish are the first rule of value investing is to find someplace to fish for value investments where there are a lot of them and of course it's gotten hard in the United States to find easy value investments because the world is so competitive and that accounts for a lot of what you see in Berkshire where we buy securities like Apple we wouldn't have bought in the old days when we had more mundane things that we're serving us very well so we're just looking in different places but our value investors and so they can some people may say value investor they mean somebody that emphasizes working capital or something meaning they should use the fish in that particular place but I think that's all I think it's a bad use of the language to think there's a difference between value investing and other good in investing all good at investing is value investing by definition and so what they're just various places to fish for value investments and of course as the world gets tougher you have to fish in places you didn't fish before and so the idea with Apple then is that there's value there that's unrecognized by the market different kind of value investing and one with which were less familiar wouldn't have bothered if we didn't think it was a good investment let me ask you about one of your favorite subjects nowadays I think maybe it's Bitcoin and I know you've had some unpleasant things to say about it but but is there anything there to it at all Charlie I mean it should we just dismiss the whole thing well Bitcoin as a the computer science behind that's fine bitcoin is a great triumph for the human mind that's what captivates a lot of these people they've actually created a product that's hard to create more of but not impossible now that is very peculiar but they've managed to do it so a lot of they compute computer science people love it just because it's such an extreme achievement of computer science I of course have no interest in that because it's not my subject and I see an artificial speculative medium that people are buying just because they think they can sell to somebody else at a higher price even though it inherently has no intrinsic value and so I regard the whole business as antisocial stupid immoral immoral yes is that why why would you trade suppose you could make a lot of money trading freshly harvested baby brains would you do it or would you say that's immoral you wouldn't trade him would you – it's too awful of concept well to me bitcoin is almost as bad it's not having any desirable social purpose we've got debit cards isn't like we don't have a payment system we've got WeChat in China incredibly efficient payment system China doesn't need Bitcoin and if you have a wee chat why would you do it in a medium where the value changes enormous ly nobody's right mind would want a payment system where the very thing you were using went up and down by 20% of the day so I regard the thing as a as a combination of dementia and immorality and I think the people that are pushing it are a disgrace that ought to be some things that are beneath you you just don't do and this is one we did not need a gold certificate I made a gold substitute like this last year when we talked Charlie you mentioned that Donald Trump exhibited a form of sickness I think is how you characterize it I think it came you were characterizing his his personality and his behavior it's been another year since he's been in office and I wonder how you would assess him well I am a load because I consider it counterproductive to hate as much as both parties now hate and I have disciplined myself and I now regard all politicians higher than I used to I did that as a matter of self-preservation the other thing I did to make me feel better about the current scene is I reread the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and it goes on for a great many hundreds of pages and that made me feel a lot better about the current political scene we're way ahead of the Romans at the end that's a pretty low bar well I didn't it's very helpful I suggest you try it you will feel better about the present world if you look at that one and you said you elevated politicians yeah make yourself feel something it's counterproductive to hate so much all of us on both sides are getting to hate so much too much and I've decided I'm gonna back off from that how do we resolve it we don't have to resolve it they all pass are the old saying this too will pass they all go away I have a different rule about politicians they are never so bad you don't live to want them back there will come a time when those people will hate Trump will wish that he were back I don't think I'll live to see it like confidently predict that will happen that's interesting well if you like the whole scan of human history and the people who led it there are a lot of bad leaders okay why don't we leave it at that charlie munger vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway thanks very much for taking the time all right

29 thoughts on “Charlie Munger: Value Investing, Bitcoin and China (2018)

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  2. 16:00 No, Charlie, trading bitcoin is not immoral. It's nothing like "trading harvested baby brains" (analogy fail). I've traded bitcoin for dinner, which is not immoral. The banking system is immoral. Cryptocurrency competes with banker's fiat currency. Berkshire Hathaway is heavily into banking and credit card stocks. Talking your book?

  3. the way munger pauses then starts speaking again reminds me of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT9FxN1MDTc

  4. He is a genius hybrid and electric or alternative fuel in china is going to be astronomical…. chinas pollution is already at tipping in some places..

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  8. Charlie is highly regarded in the investment world indeed but comes across too condescending in this interview, or simply he didn't want to be interviewed

  9. Charlie, the genius of investing! Always good to listen to him. Berkshire without him could change a lot in the future…
    .

  10. I am so happy that I avoided my mothers advice to play music for relaxing insted I tuined in to this everlasting interview. Thanks to good lord . PURE GOLD.

  11. I like to hear what charlie had to say however this ended too quickly interviewer had his little feelings hurt.

  12. I was stunned to hear him say that he re-read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm reading it right now and had a similar reaction. That was a REAL decline!

  13. This is a bad interviewer. Just when Charlie Munger was willing to go to another spectacular level, the interviewer appeared to bewilder and ran out of questions and follow up.

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