Cryptocurrency is a “scumball activity,” said Charlie Munger while speaking to Stripe co-founder John Collison for an episode of the Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy podcast. The Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) vice chairman, who died in November at age 99, doled out his signature mix of investing advice and witticisms during their chat.
The interview on the podcast was recorded last year and released earlier this week to coincide with a reprint of Munger’s 2005 book Poor Charlie’s Almanack. Munger discussed the initial theories he posited in the book nearly two decades ago, emphasizing the need to support “win-win” companies that benefit the public. “My theory is so simple—it’s that if you make your living selling things to other people that are good for them, that is safer and more profitable averaged out than selling them stuff that’s bad for them like gambling, drugs, crazy religions,” he told Collison. “It’s amazing the people who don’t pay attention to that rule.”
Munger, who was one of the largest individual shareholders of Costco (COST) and a member of its board of directors, also shared his love for the company’s unique business model. “The whole damn culture of the place is so subtle and it just marches from triumph to triumph,” he said. “It was smart to have a small number of stocking units flowing through with enormous speed, it was right to have a membership system,” he added, praising how the company’s membership system generates customers who purchase large quantities of items on each shopping trip.
The late billionaire was less effusive about cryptocurrency, an area he’s long been publicly critical of, claiming it “ought to have been driven out as illegal.” Declaring that all nations should be able to bar cryptocurrency through anti-counterfeiting laws, Munger said it’s an ideal currency for criminals and scammers. “I think by and large, the people who promoted it are scumballs or delusionary,” he said. “You can call it a store of wealth; I call it a store of delusion.”
Charlie Munger’s love for architecture
Collison also questioned Munger about his interest in architecture, a field the investor described as “the queen of the arts.” Yet despite declaring it the most important form of art, Munger critiqued modern architects for straying from its conventional forms. “You get things like dorms at MIT, where people actually go into the dorm and get seasick because all the walls are slanted, and massively stupid,” he said.
Munger knew a thing or two about college dorms—much of his fortune went into the creation of residence halls at various universities, with the investor usually involved in the design process. After pledging $110 million to the University of Michigan in 2009 to establish a 600-bedroom hall, the investor’s plans to make most of the bedrooms windowless made headlines.
“I realized I could do all kinds of wonderful things in that building once I got over this prejudice that it was absolutely required, under any and all circumstances, that every bedroom have a window,” he told Collison. He arranged for common rooms providing light, taking cues from windowless cruise ships. “I was following correct precedents from marine architecture,” he said, adding that the architecture students would benefit heavily from studying the field themselves. “If you don’t look, you won’t find.”
In addition to his financial contributions for dormitories, Munger was a supporter of cultural and healthcare institutions across California, where he lived most of his life. Philanthropy was a passion he shared with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. “We both believe that if you’re unusually successful, you ought to share, to some extent,” said Munger on Invest Like the Best. He praised his business partner and long-time friend, stating that the two have not only succeeded in making money but also in having fun while doing it. “We’ve had a lot of fun, actual fun,” he said. “It’s a blessing to do it with a good partner than to be all alone doing it.”