If you happen to speak with him without knowing who he is and where he comes from, you could easily mistake him for someone close to the Dalai Lama. You would think he is someone who has probably spent much of his life as a hermit in the Himalayas, where it did not matter how much money you have and you live on fruits and vegetables grown in your backyard. The kind of place where you are neither fearful of anything nor threatened by anyone.
That’s the kind of place he speaks of: a beautiful, fair world. Not the world we live in — obsessed with money and material pursuits; where economic progress trumps human progress every time; where wi-fi on every street corner takes precedence over feeding the homeless and hungry who wander those very streets; where fear — of being left behind, of being attacked, of losing out — rules hearts and suspicion stalks minds. That’s the impression you get when you speak with Peter Buffett, the youngest son of Warren Buffett.
Peter’s op-ed piece in The New York Times in July 2013 created quite a stir, to put it mildly. Actually, it enraged people in the development sector — and the world of business. Essentially, he wrote that the rise in philanthropy is nothing but “conscience-laundering”; economic progress is not real progress; and traditional philanthropies are engaging in “philanthropic colonialism”.
His bigger grouse: the obsession and chase for more money is spiralling out of control; and the fundamental motive of how we can make money out of something drives us to the lowest common denominator instead of the highest and best purpose. “Money is creating misery for so many people — it does not have to be that way if the distribution mechanism were right. We often say at our foundation, let’s put money out of its misery,” he says now. Peter does not claim to know the answers, but he seeks a better system. “I don’t have to be an expert tailor to say the emperor has no clothes.”
An Emmy Award-winning musician, Peter and his wife Jennifer manage the $1 billion his father, Warren Buffett, has entrusted him with to pursue his philanthropic endeavours. His NoVo Foundation works globally on women’s issues, including sex trafficking. And the fair world that Peter talks about is not the result of p