Marks Templeton passed from this world on July 8. In an extraordinary
life of 95 years, John Templeton was one of the world’s wealthiest
individuals, most successful investors, most generous philanthropists,
and a tireless seeker for spiritual truth.
I first learned of John Templeton nearly 30
years ago when he appeared on the PBS show "Wall Street Week with Louis
Rukeyser." The late Mr. Rukeyser, for those of you who didn’t know him,
had a dominating personality—colorful, witty, brilliant, cocky, and no
sufferer of fools. His ego was sizable, and he liked being the center
of attention. On the night I first saw John Templeton, though, Rukeyser
was transformed. His persona that night was humble, deferential. He
spoke quietly, almost reverently, in introducing Mr. Templeton, and
then, during their interview, he treated his guest with the utmost
respect, even awe. It was almost impossible to envision Louis Rukeyser
playing second fiddle to anyone, but he humbly assumed this role in the
company of John Templeton.
What explained Rukeyser’s deference that night?
Did his guest have a personality even more dominating than Lou’s? On
the contrary, Sir John—a slightly built man without an ounce of
bravado—was very soft-spoken and mild-mannered. It was as if Rukeyser
had introduced Superman, and then Clark Kent appeared. But underneath
the modest surface, there was something about this quiet, unassuming
man that held one’s attention. Suffusing John Templeton’s being were
powerful spiritual qualities—intelligence, insight, optimism, and an
inner strength anchored securely on an unshakable faith in the ultimate
power of good.
In an investment world full of wannabe gurus
and Barnum-like economic forecasters, John Templeton was the real
thing. For decades, he demonstrated an amazing ability to discern
economic value and long-term trends. A pioneer in global investing, he
made many investors very wealthy. He was immune to investment fads. In
fact, at the beginning of this decade, he profited handsomely from the
bubble in tech stocks, selling overvalued stocks short and profiting
from their inevitable fall to earth. Earlier this decade, already in
his 90s, he warned that U.S. housing was a bubble—a painful realization
that came to others too late.
Sir John Templeton was born in Tennessee. In
1968, he gave up his American citizenship to become a British citizen
domiciled in the Bahamas, a tax haven. In 1987, Queen Elizabeth II
knighted him for his philanthropic works.
For some, the renunciation of American
citizenship would be an act of protest or something done in anger. Sir
John—a man so clearly at peace with himself and his fellow man—did not
operate at that level. While I can’t say with absolute certainty, from
everything I have read about him or heard him say, I believe he took
this step because of his supreme loyalty to the highest principles.
A devout Christian (a lifelong Presbyterian who
routinely opened the board meetings of his mutual funds with prayer)
John Templeton served God first. It must have seemed strange to him for
the U.S. government to want to take a much larger share of his income
than the tithe (tenth) that the Bible says is due to Almighty God. But
Sir John was a man for whom faith and reason are compatible and
interrelated, and I believe that human rationality was as significant a
factor as his faith in his decision to change his citizenship.
As one who saw wealth creation as the essential
precursor to removing the curse of poverty from the human race, he
clearly understood the utter stupidity of the American government’s
myriad wealth-destroying policies. It was only natural for him, then,
to move to where he could help wealth-generating capital flourish. He
did this not for himself—he could have afforded everything he wanted
for himself here in the States, and indeed, as a billionaire who
traveled in economy class, his personal consumption was modest;
instead, he did it for his fellow man. The vast extent of Sir John’s
charitable donations was made possible by his decision about his
John Templeton believed that human beings can
fulfill their potential only when they are free from oppressive
government policies. He was convinced that free men, imbued with
Christian values, could and would do more to vanquish poverty than
heavy-handed government policies that infringed man’s God-given rights.
That is why he supported various organizations that work to maximize
individual liberty under law, in addition to charities, like Mother
Teresa’s, that directly ministered to human needs.
Sir John’s mission in life was to serve God. He
did so admirably, and now receives the heavenly benediction, “Well done
thou good and faithful servant.”