Philanthropy Roundtable believes the best way to safeguard the future of our democracy is by promoting and defending the American ideals that strengthen our free society, including the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. As Americans cast their votes on Election Day, the Roundtable is revisiting a conversation between Roundtable CEO Elise Westhoff and entrepreneur and philanthropist Ray Dalio from the most recent episode of our interview series, “Doers to Donors.” In the interview, Dalio shared why he believes his philosophy of radical open-mindedness can help lead to better policy decisions … and also preserve our democracy through compromise, conversation and mutual respect.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Ray Dalio, founder and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, spoke with Westhoff about his success in business and his philanthropy, which focuses on a variety of causes, including education, medical research, mental health, entrepreneurship and ocean exploration.
They also delved into his well-known “principles for success,” including the concept of radical open-mindedness, which Dalio defines as “taking in the best thinking that’s available to you” without being attached to a conclusion that might be wrong.
“The greatest tragedy of humankind is people who hold on to opinions that they don’t stress test, and therefore they make worse decisions,” he said. “Open-mindedness helps decision-making and produces a great deal of learning so it’s a terrific thing.”
Sadly though, Dalio believes “most people in our society” are “doing terribly” at listening to one another and being open to different points of view – and research backs up his conclusion. A new NBC News poll revealed political polarization is worsening, with 80% of Democrats and Republicans believing “the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”
“If two people are disagreeing, one of them might be wrong,” Dalio said. “How do you know the wrong one isn’t you?”
To foster a spirit of mutual respect fundamental to the success of our democracy, he said Americans must be willing to listen to one another.
“It’s now perceived that if you’re compromising, and that you’re operating in a way where you respect differences … you’re weak,” he said. “[But] our system of democracy depends on compromising.”