Monday Morning Philosophizing: Charlie Munger

Kristen Sparrow • December 05, 2011

This may seem off the topic of medicine, but I think if you stay with me, you’ll see the relevance. Over the weekend I was reading a book about and by Charlie Munger[i], a famous and successful investor and partner of Warren Buffett. I was interested in the various “mental models”he’s derived from multiple disciplines (mathematics, physics, psychology, engineering) and wanted to read more about them.
One quip that he uses over and over again is the quote from an old “rustic” who says “I wish I knew where I was going to die, and then I’d never go there.” Which is funny, of course, but it echoes the great algebraist Jacobi, who said “Invert, always invert.” Munger’s point in investing and in life, is that in avoiding what is negative, you are much more likely to be successful. Avoid losing, spend less than you make, and save.

So what does this have to do with acupuncture and alternative medicine? I realized that the “First Do No Harm” part of acupuncture and alternative medicine, though hardly a ringing call to action is an important part of the mission. In keeping people off medications whenever possible is not a small thing. Some studies show that the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs kill some 140,000 people in the U.S. a year and cost the country over $136 billion annually. As always, it’s hard to prove a negative, but the wisdom of billionaires, Chinese ancients, genius mathematicians, and “rustics” concur that by avoiding the negative, you’re much more likely to flourish. Once back pain, IBS, or migraines occur if the standard was to use acupuncture first who knows how much medication, cost and work would be saved. I’ve discussed these issues frequently in this blog, for eg here, here, and here.
Info on my practice here.

[i] “Poor Charlie’s Almanac: Wit and Wisdom of Charlie Munger” Kaufman 2006