I posted in yesterday’s blog entry an e-mail sent to me on May 21, 2009, by J.D. Roth, owner of the Get Rich Slowly blog. Set forth below is the text of my response e-mail, sent that same evening.
I will post the words from your earlier e-mail (the entire thing) as next Thursday’s blog entry (I have items already in line for the days until then, but, if it is a big deal to you to have the words of your e-mail appear sooner, please let me know and I can move things around.
I will also provide a link at the old blog entry to the one that contains the words of your e-mail.
I think it makes sense to post your second e-mail (the one below) as well. The mental health claim is certainly part of the story. If you give me permission, I will run the full text of this one as well. If you do not, I will summarize this one in the blog entry in which I run the full text of the earlier one.
I am of course sorry to hear about your mother.
I certainly agree that the story of the Campaign of Terror that has been waged against the Retire Early and Indexing discussion board communities for seven years now (and against a number of blogs in recent months) is an amazing one. You’ll get no argument from me re that one. I’ve made a living as a reporter for over 25 years now and I have never seen anything else like it. Holy moly!
I am grateful to you for at least being able to say that my message is “interesting.” I of course understand that it is not your particular message. I don’t believe that that at all justifies you in not writing about the FACTS of the matter. If there were other Rational Investors who were engaging in the behavior that some Passive Investing dogmatists have been engaging in, I would want to disassociate myself from that behavior in every way possible. Such behavior would not necessarily cause me to change my investing beliefs (I think it might give me pause to reconsider some of them). But I certainly hope that I would recognize the need to report about the behavior and about the damage it has done to numerous discussion-board communities and blogs. The behavior is a story of its own and it is one that reflects poorly on the Passive Investing approach. As you note, the behavior is extraordinary. All Passive Investing advocates should be asking themselves what it is about this investing philosophy that gives rise to such behavior and why it is that so many Passive Investing advocates have failed to speak up against it for so long.
I’ll give you a concrete example of why you should be writing about the Campaign of Terror against the Retire Early and Indexing discussion-board communities even though you do not personally endorse the Rational Investing model. The Bogleheads.org forum has banned posting on The Retirement RIsk Evaluator, the only New School SWR calculator available on the internet. Questions about SWRs and retirement planning are common at that board. There are obviously many in that community who would have great interest in being able to see analytically valid retirement-planning numbers. You should be writing about the ban and about the damage it has done to aspiring retirees and urging a lifting of the ban.
Now say that you prefer the Old School studies. Does that mean that you should NOT post about the ban? I sure don’t see it that way. If you prefer the Old School studies, you should still favor discussion of the alternative to the Old School studies. There are two things that can happen as a result of the airing of a discussion of the problems with the Old School studies and of the merits or lack thereof of the New School calculator. It is of course theoretically possible that the discussions could end up affirming the merit of the Old School studies. That would obviously be a good development from the standpoint of an advocate of the Old School studies. The other possibility is that the discussions could show the benefit of the New School calculator. That could cause you to rethink your position, which is ALSO a good development in circumstances in which the advocates of the Old School studies are not able to make an effective case.
This is not a case in which you need to agree with the investing ideas being put forward to help your readers by drawing their attention to the abusive posting problem. The ban on honest posting on valuations-related topics is a PROCESS question. Bloggers on all sides of the substantive investing topics should be united in urging that discussion of all points of view be permitted in discussions of retirement planning. Blogs owners covering all sorts of non-money topics favor free speech as a general principle. Why should the owners of personal finance blogs be so different? I believe that, if anything, the need for free speech is greater in this area. When people are not permitted to hear both sides of the retirement planning story, they suffer concrete negative effects. This isn’t a case where not hearing both sides might cause someone to think that the Yankees rather than the Red Sox are going to win the World Series. This is a case where a ban on honest posting is likely going to cause people to suffer busted retirements. Not good.