Buffett on America's Progress and Why he Remains a Long Term Optimist

Asked what he is optimistic about, Warren Buffett reflects on some key points of progress over his lifetime and suggests some things we might all be thankful for.  “If I’d been born 200 years ago my life would have been just a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what it is now,” he noted, continuing: “I tell the students [they] are actually living better than John D. Rockefeller Senior lived when I was born.””

Buffett’s optimism persists even where he sees challenges, such as in education: “I think students are generally throughout the world getting a better education, certainly than they did when I was getting my education,” while acknowledging that “we like to say we have equality of opportunity in this country but unless everybody has a shot at a similar education there is no equality of opportunity. We’ve got a long way to go on that.” Asked about deficits, Buffet commented: “Our output per capita goes up year after year. How it gets divided is another matter. But if you look at real GDP per capita it’s six times what it was when I was born.”

Going forward, Buffett suggested, “even at 2% GDP [growth annually] that’s over 1% per capita and in one generation that means the next generation is going to live 25% better than we live per capita in the United States .”  Although he acknowledged distributional issues, he also maintained that progress is made on such issues over time in the United States.