May 6, 2002
Volume 4/ Number 10
This past Saturday I met Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, and the world’s second richest man, and delivered the following resolution to him and 10,000 Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders.
Steven W. Mosher
An Address to the World’s Second Richest Man
Chairman Buffett, Shareholders of Berkshire-Hathaway,
My name is Steven Mosher, and I am the President of Population Research Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the case for people as the ultimate resource—the one resource that we as investors cannot do without—and debunking the hype about overpopulation, what the New York Times has called, and I quote, one of the “myths of the twentieth century.”
I have written about the coming depopulation—that’s right, I said the coming de-population—in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. I say this to explain why Gloria Patrick, a Berkshire-Hathaway shareholder, has asked me to present for action at this meeting the following proposal. I will present the proposal and then, with the Chairman’s indulgence, spend a couple of minutes explaining why it is necessary:
Here is the resolution:
Whereas, charitable contributions should serve to enhance shareholder value; Whereas, the company has given money to groups involved in controversial activities like abortion and population control; Whereas, our company is dependent on people to buy the products and services of the various companies we own; Whereas, our company is being boycotted by Life Decisions International and investment-related groups like Pro-Vita Advisors because of our contributions;
Resolved: The shareholders request the company to refrain from making charitable contributions.
To take these point by point:
Shareholder money is entrusted to the Board of Directors to be invested in a prudent manner for the shareholders. I think you all will agree, as the resolution states, that charitable contributions should serve to enhance shareholder value. Indeed this is already Berkshire-Hathaway’s policy with regard to its operating subsidiaries. As Chairman Buffet explained in his Chairman’s letter of 2001, “We trust our managers to make gifts in a manner that delivers commensurate tangible or intangible benefits to the operations they manage.” We did not invest money in this company so it could be given to someone else’s favorite charity.
You will all likewise agree that activities like population control and abortion are controversial. In fact, some of the charitable money has been given to Planned Parenthood, a group that is responsible for almost two hundred thousand abortions a year in the United States alone, and in countless more through its population control programs worldwide. We believe that abortion is the taking of a human life. Even if you disagree on this fundamental point, however, you must concur that these ongoing boycotts of Berkshire-Hathaway company products are not a good thing.
It should be self-evident that Berkshire-Hathaway, like the economy as a whole, is dependent upon people. It is people who produce the products and services of the various companies we own, and it is people who buy them. Now you may think that there is a superabundance of people, and that we will never run short, but this is not true. Half the countries of the world—including countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia—have birthrates below replacement. Europe and Japan are literally dying, filling more coffins than cradles each year.
Dying populations may shrink the economic pie. We already see this happening in Japan and some European countries: How much of Japan’s continuing economic malaise can be directly traced to a lack of young people to power the economy? They may also make economic development nearly impossible: Russia is having trouble finding its feet economically in part because of its demographic collapse.(1) These problems will spread to many more countries in the near future.
Charitable contributions to simple-minded population control programs, in which governments impose restrictions on childbearing, are not in Berkshire-Hathaway’s interest. Such programs are not “investing in humanity’s future,” they are compromising humanity’s future, and putting a roadblock in the way of future economic growth. There is no “global share buyback” in store for those who fund population control programs, because such programs will rob the world of future consumers and producers and threaten to shrink the economic pie.
Let me give you a concrete example of what I mean. Berkshire-Hathaway owns Dairy Queen, and there are 103 Dairy Queens in Thailand.(2) But Thailand, due to a massive sterilization and contraception campaign supported by Planned Parenthood and other population control groups, now has a birthrate that is below replacement—and falling. This means that its cohorts of children are shrinking, that there will be fewer and fewer young families in the years to come, and that its population will eventually fall.(3) Now you may think that Thailand has too many children. But is it possible for there to be too many children for Dairy Queen? According to Dairy Queen, “The Dairy Queen concept especially appeals to… young families,” but there will be fewer young families in Thailand’s, and Dairy Queens future, because of population control.(4)
So I urge you to vote yes on this resolution. Let it be resolved that this company refrain from making charitable contributions.
Should you, on the other hand, vote to continue the current practice of making charitable contributions based on shareholder designations, I would urge you all to designate 501(c)3s, like the Population Research Institute, which are attempting to help the poor become the agents of their own development, and not simply try to reduce their number through population control.
1. See: “‘Overpopulation’ Turns Out to Be Overhyped,” Ben Wattenburg, The Wall Street Journal, 4 March 2002; or “Too Many People? Not by a Long Shot,” Steven W. Mosher, The Wall Street Journal, 10 February 1997.
2. Dairy Queen: International Locations,
3. World Population Prospects, The 2000 Revision, Thailand, p. 433. 4. www.dairyqueen.com .