The Ovarian Lottery
By Warren Buffett’s own admission, his time and place of birth contributed to his success — in the past eight decades, the United States has gone from strength to strength, growing from a $91.2 billion economy in 1930 to $15.7 trillion in 2012. Buffett explains this in The Snowball. “Imagine there are two identical twins in the womb, both equally bright and energetic. And the genie says to them, ‘One of you is going to be born in the United States, and one of you is going to be born in Bangladesh. And if you wind up in Bangladesh, you will pay no taxes. What percentage of your income would you bid to be the one that is born in the United States?’ It says something about the fact that society has something to do with your fate and not just your innate qualities. The people who say, ‘I did it all myself,’ and think of themselves as Horatio Alger — believe me, they’d bid more to be in the United States than in Bangladesh. That’s the ovarian lottery.” Buffett says the fact that he was born in 1930 in the United States as a white male was winning the ovarian lottery. “I had all kinds of luck… I’ve had it so good in this world, you know. The odds were 50-to-one against me being born in the United States in 1930. I won the lottery the day I emerged from the womb by being in the United States instead of in some other country where my chances would have been way different.”
Who’s your daddy?
Warren’s father Howard Buffett was instrumental in shaping his values, building on the mid-Western culture of modesty and humility. Buffett Sr, a stockbroker who later ran successfully for Congress, was a man of high integrity. In the year after he was voted into power, the government announced a pay hike, which he refused. Jeff Matthews, founder, Ram Partners, says, “When his father got to Washington, he returned the pay increase to the