Politics & Policy

John Templeton, R.I.P.

He was both a great man and a great leader of men.

John Templeton’s passing on July 8 brought me a considerable sense of loss. Unlike too many of the high-flying, power-hungry, money managers of the world, Templeton was both a great man and a great leader of men. He wasn’t a Wall Street social climber. (Actually, he found that his performance improved the further he got from Wall Street.) Nor was he a hedge-fund master of the universe, offering high-priced access to a few wealthy “qualified” investors. He was a mutual-fund guy — a democratizer of wealth.

John Templeton served Main Street.

Quite unlike, say, a George Soros, Templeton brought shareholder capitalism to the masses. He led the U.S. investor into the developing world while helping along the globalization of capital markets. Quite the opposite of Soros, he wasn’t a short-seller — an attack dog betting against national currencies. Rather, he was a long buyer who believed capitalism would take root in the developing world. He saw emerging markets before they emerged. Because of John Templeton, and a few more like him, a couple billion middle-class capitalists around the world first gained access to capital.

#ad#Templeton also loved God. (Or loves God — loving Him more now than ever before.) He promoted God to the rest of mankind. Perhaps that’s why the obituary writers at the New York Times treated him with an aloof distance, placing scare quotes around the “spiritual realities” he supported, and citing unnamed critics of his quest to reconcile faith and science.

Templeton had the nerve to actually create a prize to encourage progress in religion. Didn’t he get the memo that religion is dead? In some ways the Templeton Prize is an improvement on the Nobel Prize. Where Alfred Nobel was hostile toward religion, John Templeton made sure his award embraced it, honoring spiritual development in a world of spiritual doubt.

Nobel, for the record, invented and manufactured dynamite, that early instrument of mass destruction. In his will he tried to atone for this legacy, using his fortune to honor members of the cultural elite who despised his commercial and military achievements. Quite to the contrary, Templeton’s professional life was spent building things up, not blowing them up. And he used his fortune to honor those who affirm the spiritual realities that elite opinion despises — just the sort of people who are viewed, at best, as controversial by the scribes at the New York Times. Solzhenitsyn, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham — they all got Templeton prizes, more clear evidence that Templeton knew how to invest in assets of value.

The Times obit — snide and critical — does, however, tell me all I need to know about Mr. Templeton: He was on the right side of history. I hope we hear more about him in the days and weeks ahead, in the endearing terms he earned.

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