Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently put to another blog entry at this site:
This is a good question.
No, I don’t think it is extreme. I think it is a good comparison.
I am not saying that the two cases of ignorance are equally evil. Segregation directly affected people (not their money). Segregation was far more evil.
The similarity lies in the manner in which the ignorance manifests itself.
And you would think that the site owner would want to enforce the rules in a reasonable manner. First of all, they are his own rules. He obviously believes in them. Second, all of the site owners invest themselves. So they need to learn how to invest effectively themselves. And, third, the site owners benefit if they give to the people who follow the site a good learning experience. Valuation-Informed Indexing is new and research-based and holds tons of promise and potential, that sure seems to fit the bill. So it should not be hard to spread the word re this.
It should have been easy to spread the word re the dangers of segregation too. What was it really about? We were holding people back. Blacks were about 10 percent of the population. We were taking 10 percent of the population and saying that that group was not going to get the same education or the same opportunities, so they were not going to get the same chance to develop their human potential.
What’s the downside? The downside is that we miss out on lots of great doctors and policemen and nurses and accountants and lawyers and politicians and athletes and musicians and artists and store clerks and factory workers and on and on and on. And friends. Segregation meant that white people did not interact with black people as often. So they missed out on making friendships that would bring comfort to their lives.
It wasn’t any harder to see how that bad situation could be changed than it is to see how the bad situation we are dealing with today can be changed. Why didn’t those Southern states just take a vote and end those dumb laws without having to be pressed to do it? Why did we need all that drama? The freedom buses and the speeches and the protests and the yelling — Why was any of it even a tiny bit necessary? Every reasonable person knew this had to be done. Why was it so hard to pull it off?
There’s a great story about Rosa Parks. She’s the black woman who refused to go to the back of the bus and generated a big commotion by refusing to do so. The story is that she did the same damn thing ten or twelve years earlier. The first time, she was just arrested and nobody ever heard anything more about it. Rosa Parks was not SuperWoman. She did not possess magical powers. She just knew inside that she had to do something. And she did it. And when it didn’t work, she waited ten or twelve years and did it again.
Lots of people could have been Rosa Parks. She wasn’t the only one who saw the injustice. She wasn’t looking to be a hero. She saw that something needed to be done and there came a time when she just did it. It’s not that she wasn’t afraid. It’s that things got to a point where she just couldn’t help herself. And because she acted, lots of others worked up the courage to act. And those lots of others inspired more lots of others. And when enough people had been inspired to act, things got done.
Things don’t happen as clean and pretty as we might be inclined to think they do when we read history books. Human advances are achieved through a messy process. It is often the case that someone has to stick his or her neck out to achieve change. And it is often the case that no rational case can be made in terms of self-interest for that person taking the action that needs to be taken.
The odds of Rosa Parks changing history were very small. She knew that. How could she not know it when she had tried the very act once before in her life and it had failed? What possessed her to take the chance she took when the odds of success were so tiny? She just couldn’t freakin’ stand it anymore. She had been placed in circumstances in which she felt compelled to do a crazy but wonderful thing and that crazy but wonderful act liberated millions of people, both black and white.
I am the Rosa Parks of personal finance.
Rosa Parks was a humble woman. So it may not sound entirely Rosa Parks-like to compare myself to a hero. But you asked the question and the question needs to be answered properly and there is no one else who has the guts to say it today. So I need to say it whether it sounds odd or not. I am the person who stood up to the injustice of how information on how to invest is conveyed today in a way that destroys millions of middle-class lives.
Those people matter. I worked with them on a daily basis and saw how trickery and deceit was used to destroy their lives. And things got to a point where I simply could not bear to remain quiet any longer. I possessed zero desire to go down this road. That is evidenced by the fact that I kept quiet about the errors in the Old School SWR studies for three years after I put my first post to the Motley Fool board. I was afraid, like everyone else. But I cared about my fellow community members, the injustice was very, very clear to me and there came a time when I could not not act.
I am not the only person who saw the errors in the Old School SWR studies. That’s why the idea that I would get credit for this discovery causes so much envy in people. Scott Burns is the perfect example. His first words to me when I told him about the errors were “you’re right!” Then he asked for my telephone number so that he could conduct an interview. Scott wanted to be on top of this, he saw the importance of it immediately. But then he thought it over a bit and realized what he was going to be put through if he wrote an honest article on the situation. Then, when I continued down the honest path, he over and over again expressed this bitter envy that I had done so. I had behaved in a “catastrophically unproductive” manner. Not because I was wrong. Because I was right. Because I had done something that Scott Burns wished for years he had the courage to do but had never possessed the courage to do. That was my “crime,” in his assessment.
The similarity is that we are dealing with a situation that everyone who works in this field knows needs to change and a situation that makes everyone who works in this field look bad because he or she did not act to change it years ago themselves. What can I do about that, Sensible? People hated Rosa Parks with a burning hate because she showed them up. She didn’t want to. She couldn’t bring important change to the world without showing them up. So she did what she had to do. They hated her for it. Who was right? Who was wrong?
It is not my intent to bring shame to you or Jack Bogle or John Greaney or anyone else on this planet. I want to make the life of every person with whom I come into contact happier and better. Tell me a way to do that while still bringing on this important change and I will go for it. I search my brain every day trying to come up with things along those lines. That’s not the issue here.
The issue is whether the change is really needed. Your conclusion is that it is not, that we can continue on a few more years the way things are.
My conclusion is that you are wrong. The reason why my conclusion is different is that I have looked at the numbers and I have thought through the implications. We are living at a time when the Buy-and-Hold Era is coming to an end regardless of anything that you or I elect to do or not do. It is happening. Given that it is happening, I cannot bear to see my friends (both the Valuation-Informed Indexers and the Buy-and-Holders) go through such pain. I cannot not act. So I act. That’s the only alternative to the thing that I cannot do.
I care about you. You mock me for saying it over and over and over and over again. That doesn’t change anything. I care about Bogle. I care about Greaney. I care about all my blogger friends.
Give me an alternative that achieves the change and that hurts you less and I am going to grab it in two seconds. But I am going to achieve this change. Not for selfish reasons. Because this change must be achieved. You see that as clearly as I do when you are thinking straight. Every single one of us alive on this planet today needs to see this change take place. There is plenty of credit and an opportunity for thousands of people to become rich and famous here if we work together in a positive and constructive and life-affirming way. That’s what I want to see happen.
But please don’t fall victim to the temptation to believe that perhaps there is some way to put this off another year or another month or another day. The change happens. Once we all agree on that, we all win big-time. We are killing ourselves by putting off this change. We need to stop thinking self-destructive thoughts and start working together to bring as much joy and comfort and satisfaction to as many of us as possible while achieving the change that we all know deep in our hearts needs to take place at this moment in time.
I am the Rosa Parks of personal finance. You can be part of this wonderful, positive revolution in thinking about how stock investing works in the real world. Or you can go down in history as one of the haters. You can bring in your police dogs and your fire hydrants and your sticks and your guns and your nasty words or you can let that stuff go and enrich yourself and feel better about yourself and feel good about helping million of others. You choose. As your friend, I obviously want to do all I can to see that you make the right choice.
I hope that answers your question. I expect to become a very rich man as a result of this. I have zero desire to prevent others from enjoying the riches. I want to see all of my Buy-and-Hold friends turn the corner and become rich themselves while helping their clients and readers become rich as well. We need to take a sad song and make it better. That’s the story here.
I hope that helps a bit. We are living in a time of change. The choices we make affect millions of our friends and neighbors and co-workers and fellow community members. The change cannot be rejected. History does not permit that option. So we all need to figure out how we best fit in to the story of change. You are a part of the story. You need to see your way to playing a positive role, like those who first mocked Rosa Parks for being “uppity” and then realized that, no, she was just human, a human who saw something that just could not continue and who thus directed her humble efforts to seeing that that thing that could not continue was brought to an end.
If the humans never advanced, we would not be able to get up in the morning. Life would be too bleak without advances for us to be able to bear the pain that is also a part of life. This is the biggest advance in the personal finance field that any of us will see in our lifetimes. We owe it to ourselves to experience the joy that comes with doing the right thing here.
I hope that helps a bit, Sensible.