Warren Buffett’s faith in America

US investor Warren Buffett still has faith in America. “From a standing start 240 years ago, Americans have combined human ingenuity with a market system to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers… amass[ing] wealth totalling $90trn.”

His annual letter to shareholders in his investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway goes on to argue that, thanks to “innovation, productivity gains, entrepreneurial spirit and an abundance of capital”, he expects the economy to “deliver increasing wealth to our progeny far into the future”. While it is possible that this wealth creation could be “interrupted for short periods”, it “will not be stopped”.

Admittedly, “American owners of homes, cars and other assets have often borrowed heavily to finance their purchases”. However, “if an owner defaults… his or her asset does not disappear or lose its usefulness”. Instead, “ownership customarily passes to an American lending institution that then disposes of it to an American buyer”. As a result, “American business – and consequently a basket of stocks – is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead”.

Of course, “many companies will fall behind and some will fail”. Similarly, “the years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines that will affect virtually all stocks”. However, “widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases”. Overall, “investors who avoid high and unnecessary costs and simply sit for an extended period with a collection of large, conservatively financed American businesses will almost certainly do well”.

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