Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to another blog entry at this site:
Just wondering, do you have any “friends” who are NOT going to prison? If so, they don’t seem to get any shout-outs here. You’ve even criticized Joe Taxpayer for not doing enough, and he’s the only blogger who has welcomed you in recent months (for one post, which you’ve been flogging for content for weeks now.)
We have to work it out as a society, Bizarro.
We are the luckiest generation of investors ever to walk the planet. And we are messing it up because we have not been able to work up the courage to face our emotional pain. It’s a sad reality. But it is also a very exciting one.
Joe could do more. Absolutely. He’s done more than just about anybody else. In relative terms, he gets an A+. In objective terms — Perhaps a C.
Joe could put up a post saying “I had Rob and the Goons posting at a thread at my site and it is really amazing to see how much pain these Goons are in. This tells me that Buy-and-Hold is truly bad stuff. Anything that causes people to act like this is truly bad stuff.” Then he could send a link to that article to everyone he knows from the Financial Bloggers Conferences and ask them to comment on it, to offer their own views based on what they have seen with their own eyes.
That’s how we break through. You Goons aren’t the first people who ever acted in unacceptable ways when you experienced emotional pain. We ALL have this within us. Most of us don’t act out in these ways. What makes the investing situation so different?
People are afraid. They are afraid that the Wall Street Con Men will use their power and wealth and connections to destroy them. They are afraid that you Goons will defame them and ruin their sites with your endless abusive comments. They are afraid that they will lose readers because most investors today believe in Buy-and-Hold. Finally, they are afraid of their own weaknesses. People wonder “Do I really know enough about investing to challenge the experts?” They don’t want to steer people wrong and so they hold back, even when they see the sick stuff put forward by you Goons.
There are grounds for the fears. But the reality is that support for Buy-and-Hold has been weakening for some time and that one big push is all it would take to bring it down at this point. You Goons made threats that the Wall Street Con Men would sue me if I continued posting honestly. That was years ago. The Con Men are a paper tiger. You Goons are not anything close to as strong as you were 12 years ago. People don’t call you out as they should. But people don’t put nearly as much credence in your b.s. today as they did in the old days. I was there. I know.
The toughest one is the fear that people who speak out will lose readers. They will. That one is real. But the opportunity to win ten times the number of readers lost after the next crash makes that one not so big a deal. After the crash, everyone is going to be getting on the Valuation-Informed Indexing bandwagon. People will trust the ones who got aboard early, prior to the crash. So the upside here is huge and the downside, while real, is not really that big in comparison.
The way to get over a fear that you don’t know it all is just to tell people that. Bogle doesn’t know it all. He shows that in all his comments on investing. Shiller doesn’t know it all. I don’t know it all. None of us do. So a new voice should not be expected to know it all. You Goons will make it sound like anyone who speaks needs to know it all. People should just respond with honesty. Our knowledge of how stock investing works is primitive. None of us know it all. At least some of us openly acknowledge that rather than adopting the arrogant pose of the Buy-and-Holders who claim that they got it all right on the first try and are not capable of ever making a mistake.
Yes, I would like to see Joe do more. But I am proud of him for what he has done.
I would like to see Shiller do more. But I am proud of him for what he has done.
I would like to see Pfau do more. But I am proud of him for what he has done.
I would like to see Bogle do more. But I am proud of him for what he has done.
I consider everyone who has provided me with a learning experience a friend, Bizarro. So, yes, I have lots of friends. I give them shout-outs all the time. I consider John Greaney a friend. I give him shout-outs. And of course there are hundreds of others.
I think Greaney is probably going to prison. But I think that is true of only a small percentage of my friends. Bogle is the one I am most concerned about. I see him as being on the borderline. I don’t know which way that one is going to go. I’ll tell you this. I will be singing his praises until the day I die. He has done some truly bad stuff. But he has also done some truly wonderful stuff. The genuine accomplishments don’t get wiped off the slate when he does bad stuff. He has done enough good stuff to rank second on my list of the best investing analysts of all time. Is that a big enough shout-out to satisfy you?
I have lots of friends (both Buy-and-Holders and Valuation-Informed Indexers) who will not be going to prison. But I also have some who will be. You know what? It horrifies me that there is even one. If you told me on the morning of May 13, 2002, that my famous post was going to generate reactions that would lead to even one of my friends going to prison somewhere down the line, I would have said that you were off your rocker, that the odds of such a thing happening were one million to one. Yet here we are, you know? Crazy things happen in this mixed-up world of ours.
I am going to continue trying to get those prison sentences reduced and I am going to continue trying to see that there are as small a number of prison sentences as there can possibly be given the circumstances that confront us today. That’s all any human being can do here. I hope that I can persuade some others to get involved. Because that is how we make good things happen.
I’ll ask Joe at FinCon14 to get more involved. Maybe he will say “yes” and maybe he will say “no.” There’s certainly no harm in asking, right?
And I’ll ask lots of others. I’ll ask scores of people. It only takes one if that one is brave enough and has a big enough blog.
Maybe none of this will work. Maybe we will all go over a cliff. I hate even to acknowledge the possibility. But after 12 years of this, I feel that I need to do so. But, if that happens, it was going to happen anyway, right? It’s not as if my efforts to steer things in a positive direction caused the problem. Sometimes the best-intended efforts don’t produce good fruit. It’s a sad reality but a reality all the same.
The key for me is that I always act in a spirit of love. If we win, we will all be able to look back and say that it was love that pulled us through. That will be very cool. If we lose, we will be able to look back and say that we put forward a loving spirit at every stage of the proceedings. There’s honor in that, right? So I think that’s the way to play it.
I naturally wish you the best of luck with whatever investing strategies you elect to pursue, my old soon-to-be-prison-dwelling friend.