Santa Buffett

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
December 24, 2006

Harsh as it sounds, Santa isn't coming to our house tomorrow. Well, sort of. We do play the Santa game with our six-year-olds, much the same way we play Tooth Fairy and Mickey Mouse.

Our religious tradition celebrates the coming of a savior and the notion of giving in December. We do not want our kids to think some fat guy sneaks into our house and rewards them for being 'good' because we don't want them to conclude that children of families with fewer financial resources are 'bad.'

Our kids know that their gifts are from their parents, and they are developing, we hope, their own spirit of generosity.

I really want to raise two little capitalists. While that may sound crass, consider the essence of capitalism: individuals are rewarded for the value of their production. Who wouldn't want that for their children?

My kids have my unconditional love as a father. But no one else will ever provide for them unconditionally.

I want them to understand risk taking, entrepreneurship, and that people's rewards are directly related to the value they provide. This isn't selfish; it is, in fact, the most selfless concept I can teach them: that a person cannot consume more than he or she produces without taking someone else's property ' by physical force, trickery, or fiat.

Maybe other parents also dream of raising little Warren Buffetts and John Rockefellers, or unknown shopkeepers and small-business owners.

What tools should a parent provide for a future business owner or investor?

The modern anticapitalist impulse in this country traces back to the Great Depression. Convinced that society had a collective financial obligation to its individual members, many Americans embraced socialism as morally superior.

That view lingers today. A business that is too successful becomes the target of the Justice Department, the tax man, or vindictive juries.

We give lip service to capitalism while winking at the confiscation of the product of others' work. I do not want my children to accept such behavior as moral.

When our kids reach the age where they need some money, they will have opportunities to create value. The notion that wealth can actually be created is something my children will learn as they work around the house. By accepting meaningful duties, they will be an integral part of our family's creation of wealth. They will know that if they are to have any wealth, it must be earned; it can't be taken from someone or given to them.

For children of successful capitalists who go on to business achievements, it is never just about the money; it is about accomplishment and competition. Like imagination, competitiveness is a childlike quality that is dampened when well-meaning adults provide for their kids in such a way that they never have to work for anything.

Economist Joseph A. Schumpeter said, 'All the features and achievements of modern civilization are, directly or indirectly, the products of the capitalist process.' My wife and I want Bethany and Wheeler to understand that. It may be the greatest present we ever give them.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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