Howard Buffett, father of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, was an “old right” Republican Congressman for Nebraska in the 1940s and 50s. In a brilliant piece of historical recollection, journalist John Nichols shows the startling prescience of Buffett’s foreign policy, which along with that of Robert Taft, are inspirations for the stand taken by Ron Paul.
What seems controversial today—as it was then—turns out to have been extremely accurate in its predictions. Nichols relates,
Buffett, the father of billionaire Warren, opposed military interventionism during the cold war era, declaring on the floor of the House: ”Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns. Persuasion and example are the methods taught by the Carpenter of Nazareth, and if we believe in Christianity we should try to advance our ideals by his methods. We cannot practice might and force abroad and retain freedom at home. We cannot talk world cooperation and practice power politics.”
When the threat of increased US involvement in Vietnam arose in the early 1960s, the elder Buffett wrote in William F. Buckley’s National Review: “When the American government conscripts a boy to go 10,000 miles to the jungles of Asia without a declaration of war by Congress (as required by the Constitution) what freedom is safe at home? Surely, profits of U.S. Steel or your private property are not more sacred than a young man’s right to life.”
Just as Ron Paul has consistently opposed free-trade deals and schemes to enrich government contractors, the elder Buffett railed against the crony capitalism of his day. “There are businesses that are being enriched by national defense spending and foreign handouts,” Buffett warned in 1948. “These firms, because of the money they can spend on propaganda, may be the most dangerous of all. If the Marshall Plan meant $100 million worth of profitable business for your firm, wouldn’t you Invest a few thousands or so to successfully propagandize for the Marshall Plan? And if you were a foreign government, getting billions, perhaps you could persuade your prospective suppliers here to lend a hand in putting that deal through Congress.”
Especially in light of the recent “indefinite detention” NDAA bill, the expanding powers toward a police state, the militarization of the police, police immunity from prosecution, the expanding invasiveness of the TSA, foul play by the Department of Justice, increasing powers of the IRS, expanding plans for further international wars, plans for 24-hour real-time surveillance of the entire globe—and this is all just news from the past month—I think its safe to say that Buffett’s prediction that “the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home” was startlingly accurate.
It is certainly accurate. If it’s not starling enough, that’s your fault.
If Buffet and the old right were so accurate to see today’s coercive state from 60 years ago, how bad do you think it will be for your children and grandchildren if we continue the same foreign policies for another half decade? How far will we have to go before the conservative base demands of its established leaders a foreign policy of peace and non-intervention? When will we learn the lesson? Or will we before we suffer a total descent into totalitarianism?