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Opinion | Alabama should follow the Buffett rule: Take advantage of others’ “dumb things”

Economic development is built on infrastructure, workforce and quality of life. If one leg is uneven, the whole is unstable.


When the Legislature came together to unanimously pass a slate of bills known as “The Game Plan,” Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a pro-growth, pro-business package that showed stunning optimism about the state’s future.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, said at a recent gathering of top executives and shareholders, “What gives you opportunities is other people doing dumb things.” He further stated, “In the 58 years we’ve been running Berkshire, I’d say there has been a great increase in the number of people doing dumb things,” as the Wall Street Journal reported.

To win investors, individuals and states should take advantage when others do dumb things. Let’s call that the Buffett rule.

With The Game Plan our state leaders acted wisely and did not do a dumb thing..

However, a spate of bills making their way through the House and Senate stand in direct opposition to the bold hopefulness and confidence in The Game Plan by painting the state government as paranoid, insular and arcane, more in tune with the dark days of the 1960s than the bright tomorrows of the 2020s.

Economic development is built on a three-legged stool of infrastructure, workforce and quality of life. If one leg is uneven, then the whole is shaky and unstable.

With The Game Plan, Republicans and Democrats worked side by side, and the results were promising and a lesson for the future.

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Unfortunately, over the last ten years, the Alabama Republican Party, on many fronts, has abandoned its original pro-business posture by gravitating to a culture warrior populism. While populism has a sway during campaigning, its politics are short-sighted when it comes to long-term policies for prosperity.

“Populist movements almost by definition don’t spring up among people who think everything is going great and they’re getting a fair shake,” wrote conservative thinker Jonah Goldberg in his 2018 book Suicide of the West, “Populism is fueled by resentment, the sense that the ‘real people’ are being kept down or exploited by the elites or the establishment or, in the numerous extreme cases of populism, shadowy conspirators.”

The Party’s shift over the last 40 years from Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” and George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservative” has made it weaker, not stronger, more isolated than expansive. Here in Alabama, the Republican Party is strong in numbers but sometimes seems out of touch and almost schizophrenic.

On one hand, Republicans promote an economic agenda that is reasonable and fiscally responsible while, on the other, embracing divisive “culture wars” that are anti-business and anti-personal freedom. Some aspects of the culture wars are reminiscent of the Left’s “Nanny state,” which worked to legislate what people could eat, drink, smoke or wear on their heads when riding a bicycle.

But there is a darker side to the culture warriors movement that gives off the oder of hatred, vilification and a loathing of those who are different. There seems to be no compromise or tolerance for others’ choices.

In today’s conflict, some conservatives are waging war over whose values, morality and lifestyle are American or Alabamian.

Every state around us competes for business investments and job creation. The states that succeed in creating strong economies and good job prospects for their citizens will be the states that win those competitions for the industry. Here again, a state can offer robust infrastructure and a trained workforce, but if it lacks a certain quality of life, it will not easily win the race for attracting the best business.

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Often we hear it said that if a business doesn’t like how we do things down here, they can go somewhere else. And they do. Few companies say out loud, “Your politics are too extreme, and your social positions too far outside of the mainstream for our executives to live here.” But that’s what they think. And they just move on.

Like so many thoughts from the oracle of Omaha, there are profound lessons in his simplest expressions that can boil down to don’t do dumb things that are bad for business and freedom. 

Alabama will never out-anti-Woke Florida. And while the Sunshine State governor is riding high at the moment, he will face a reckoning as capitalism will always win over government intrusion unless the government comes with guns.

Since Alabama can’t out-anti-Woke Tennessee, Georgia, or even Mississippi, why not take the Buffett approach and take advantage of other states’ “dumb things” by avoiding legislation that hinders business development and personal choice?

Attacking “Woke capitalism” is one of the most ignorant political strategies to come down the pike. “Woke capitalism is simply capitalism — and it’s good for business,” Randell Leach wrote in The Hill.

“In his annual ‘Letter to CEOs,’ even BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink wrote that stakeholder capitalism “is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke.’ It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper.”

Alabama’s proposed anti-ESG legislation is not anti-Woke. It’s anti-business. Here, too, the state should apply the Buffett rule and take advantage of others’ dumb moves and not jump off the cliff with surrounding states that are choosing dumb things over good business.

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The Legislature, along with Gov. Ivey, has laid the tracks for a decade of prosperity for the people of Alabama, now is not the time to let the latest obsession in politics derail the future.

The Buffett rule is a game plan, too.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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