Over There: International Investing
John Templeton saw it before just about anyone else in the United States: the investing allure of faraway places with strange-sounding names. In the mid-20th century, this genial and optimistic soul from small-town Tennessee took his cosmopolitan insight, that international investing was a ripe orchard to pick, and convinced U.S.-centric folks that opportunities lay beyond native shores. More than anyone, Templeton introduced regular American investors to the tantalizingly strange mosaic of foreign stocks.
His timing was exquisite, coming amid the first major cracks in American insularity. Separated from much of the world by immense oceans, imbued with a sense that Europeans were twits and other foreigners were simply bizarre, Americans have traditionally felt themselves special and apart. While the United States is a nation of immigrants, the ideal has been to assimilate foreign-born newcomers. Critics of bilingual education say that English is the nation’s official language, so to them, teaching Latino kids in Spanish is wrongheaded and even anti-American. General public knowledge or concern about the rest of the globe has seldom been strong in the United States. For many Americans, everybody else’s soccer mania is weird. Ask a European what the country code is for his phone, and odds are he will know; ask an American, and he won’t.
Yet over the past 100 years, and particularly since World War II, a growing subset of Americans ...