William F. Buckley

The marriage of Buffett and Gates was a truly exhilarating event, even though it leaves the world hanging on the question whether there will be offspring remotely tall enough to do their parents proud.

The achievements were of separate orders. In the case of Bill Gates, you have, really, an invention. Whatever else came along, it is Microsoft's evolving operating system that was at the center of it, just as the automobile was at the center of the career of Henry Ford.

In the case of Warren Buffett, it was prudential brainpower working with the power of compounding. His company, under his direction, bought and sold for more than 40 years. He was not a man who contributed the idea of an automobile, or an operating system to drive a computer that did the work of 10,000 scribes. He simply looked around and bought this and sold the other, and in a little while he discovered that he was the second-richest man in the world.

What do you do when you are the second-richest? Why, unite with No. 1. The two men spoke admiringly of each other on the Charlie Rose show, revealing quiet admiration for singular talents and the special kind of joy that comes to an entity (the Gates Foundation) that yesterday was worth $30 billion, today is worth $60 billion.

But here are critical matters Buffett and Gates didn't discuss. First of these is retrospective.

What thoughts do we have about the means by which these two men accumulated a greater wealth than all the silver and gold brought out of the New World by Spain? After the Gilded Age was done, a generation was given to analyzing what had happened. Resentments and recriminations crystallized, and Major reforms were institutionalized, which provided against monopoly agglomerations.

But there hasn't been much critical commentary in the matter of Buffett-Gates. In the matter of Buffett, the reason for the lack of criticism is pretty obvious. There isn't a law against trading, and shouldn't be. In the matter of Gates, it is generally sensed that competition is already modestly in play. In any case, it can't any longer be contended that he alone controls computer communications, in the sense that he alone controlled Windows. It would not be easy to describe a single law that we all wish might retrospectively have been enacted 40 years ago to prevent Gates from accomplishing what he did. There is no canvas, save that which fumes at the capitalist system, in which he figures as a predatory beast.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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