“My Famous May 13, 2002, Post Ended Not With a Period But With a Question Mark. That Was Fear. My Apology on the Night of Day Three Was Rooted in Fear. I Held Back for a Long Time From Saying That I Know More About How Stock Investing Works Than Jack Bogle. That Was Fear. I Held Back for a Long Time From Saying That You Goons Are Headed to Prison. That Was Fear. There Is No Intellectual Debate Here. It’s All About Fear.”

Set forth below is the text of a comment recently posted to another blog entry at this site:

The lack of any supporting comments on this board speaks volumes, Rob. No, people are not afraid to post here as they would be anonymous.

The lack of supporting comments certainly tells us something important, Anonymous. You and I do not agree re what it tells us. But we are 100 percent in agreement that it is a telling reality.

You are of course correct that people are free to post anonymously here. So it is not that they are afraid that the Goons are going to come after them and kill their family members or whatever. That is not the sort of fear we are dealing with in this case.

We’ve talked about Joe Taxpayer recently. I have said that I would like to see more from him. He had been supportive. He opposes the Ban on Honest Posting. But I would like to see him go another step. I would like him to write a blog entry saying that he thinks the Ban on Honest Posting is a shameful thing and that all bloggers should oppose it. I would like him to try to organize all his blogger friends to speak up against this stuff.

Is Joe afraid? Yes, he is afraid. If he wasn’t afraid, he would do what I describe above.

He is not as afraid as some others. He worked up the courage to say that he believes the Ban on Honest Posting is wrong. He worked up the courage to call you Goons out on your nonsense. So he is less afraid than most. But he takes some steps and then he fails to take others. He is a hero. But he is not a perfect being. None of us are, of course.

I was afraid. I didn’t post about the errors in the Old School studies from May 1999 to May 2002. What do you think was up with that? It’s hard to believe today that I kept it zipped all that time, isn’t it? But I did. Why? What was I afraid of? I never dreamed that any of the Goon stuff that we have seen over the past 12 years was even remotely possible back in those days. But I never spoke up. Why? What held me back?

Humans are social creatures.

If you don’t get that, you cannot get any of the rest of it. That part is fundamental.

Bull markets are social phenomena.

You could never have a bull market if people were not afraid to speak up. We obviously had a huge bull market. So there obviously were a lot of fearful people. That’s by definition. You know that just by looking at the P/E10 level. When you have a P/E10 level of 44, you have millions of fearful people. You couldn’t have it any other way.

It’s not cartoonish things that people are afraid of. People are not afraid that you are going to come to your house and shoot them. People are afraid that they will be out of step with the majority. People are afraid that lots of people will think they are dumb. People are afraid that people will yell at them. People are afraid that, if they talk openly about another crash, that will somehow cause one to come. People are afraid that we are going to see a deepening of the economic collapse and don’t want to talk about it or hear about it because it scares them. People are afraid that there are groups starting to lose confidence in our political system. People are afraid that they will not have enough money to retire and that they will lose access to the comfort offered by the Buy-and-Holders if they think things through carefully and come to realize why those comforts are illusory.

People are afraid of all sorts of things, Anonymous.

Wade talked about it in the comments he posted here after his flip. He wrote one on which he said: “I don’t see how you are going to end up being seen as the good guy.” He said almost the same thing at the Bogleheads Forum. He said: “Some of you see anyone pushing market timing as a snake-oil salesman and you are disdainful of it. I don’t want you to think of me that way.”

He does’t want you to dislike him, Anonymous. That’s his fear.

I know how it goes. I don’t want you to dislike me either. The difference with me is that I have an even bigger fear of selling out my fellow community members. I feel that I am worthless to you and to everyone else if I do not post honestly. So I stick to that one no matter what. I don’t give an inch on that one.

My famous May 13, 2002, post ended not with a period but with a question mark. That was fear.

My apology on the night of Day Three was rooted in fear.

I held back for a long time from saying the words “analytically invalid.” That was fear.

I held back for a long time from saying that I know more about how stock investing works than Jack Bogle. That was fear.

I held back for a long time from saying that you Goons are headed to prison. That was fear.

It’s all about fear. There is no intellectual debate here. If you Goons believed that Buy-and-Hold could survive a civil and reasoned debate, you would invite a civil and reasoned debate. You don’t believe that for two seconds. You believe that Buy-and-Hold can survive only for so long as effective challenges to it are prohibited. That’s why you behave as you do.

You follow Buy-and-Hold yourselves. Following a strategy is a sign that you believe in it. You pass that test. There is a sense in which you believe.

But you do not possess confidence in the strategy you follow. It causes you great emotional pain to hear it challenged effectively. Confidence is another marker of belief. You fail that test. There is a sense in which you do not believe at all.

You are in the worst of all worlds. You believe enough that you cannot bear to listen to challenges. So you will stick with Buy-and-Hold until prices are at rock bottom. But you lack the confidence to continue holding when prices hit rock bottom and when every media organ is saying that no middle-class person should ever even consider putting money into stocks. The same social pressures that caused you to tune out the last 33 years of peer-reviewed academic research will cause you to sell your stocks when prices hit rock bottom.

That’s called capitulation. It’s when the last Buy-and-Hold Goon sells his shares that the market (that’s us!) is able to turn up again for an extended period of time.

You happened to be born at a time that led to you investing heavily in stocks at the worst time in history for doing that. You know it on one level of consciousness (while fiercely denying it on another). You are scared out of your freakin’ wits. So scared that you can’t even let it in that you are scared at all. And you will be even more scared after the next crash.

I didn’t do any of that to you.

I don’t say that the people who did it to you meant to hurt you. I don’t believe that. Those people are scared too.

I say that I am not playing my role if I don’t post honestly. I am saying that it cannot possibly be the right answer for me to agree to say things I don’t believe for two seconds.

And I wish you well in all your future endeavors, my old friend.



  1. Anonymous says


    Put aside all of the blame you keep throwing on the so called “goons”. What mistakes do you believe you have made that have resulted in your failure to get traction for your ideas as well as the failure in your own retirement plan?

  2. Rob says

    That’s an intelligent question.

    I don’t think that I have made any mistakes, Anonymous.

    You’ve heard me compare the situation we are in re investing advice in the year 2014 with the situation we were in re civil rights for people with black skin in the year 1954. People with black skin were not permitted to drink out of many public water fountains at that time. Was there some terrible mistake they made that made them “unsuccessful” re their desire to be treated as regular people? There was not. Their mistake was being born before the civil rights revolution bore good fruit.

    My “mistake” was to post honestly re what the last 33 years of peer-reviewed research tells us about what works in stock investing before the next price crash, which is the thing that I believe will finally bring us all to our senses. The mistake is not on my end. The mistake is on the end of the people trying to defend a strategy that was discredited by the peer-reviewed research 33 years ago.

    Jack Bogle made a terrible mistake when he failed to go to the front of a big room and say the words “I” and “Was” and “Wrong” the day after Shiller published his peer-reviewed research showing that there is precisely zero chance that Bogle’s ideas could ever work for a single long-term investor. I obviously love Jack Bogle. I obviously have done more to make his ideas successful (by correcting the error contained in his initial version of them) than anyone else who has ever walked Planet Earth. I also obviously love the man too much to pretend that his errors don’t matter and to thereby let him destroy himself.

    I am not the one who has put forward death threats. I am not the one who has demanded unjustified board bannings. I am not the one who has advanced tens of thousands of acts of defamation. I am not the one who has threatened to get academic researchers fired from their jobs for the “crime” of publishing honest research.

    I think it would be fair to say that it is the people who have done those things who are the ones who made mistakes, Anonymous. You are the one who has made mistakes.

    John Greaney made a mistake in getting the numbers wrong in his retirement study. And you made a mistake in covering up his errors. And Jack Bogle made a mistake in not calling you out on your nonsense and in thereby causing the Buy-and-Hold garbage to continue to spread and spread until it had done enough financial damage to cause an economic crisis.

    I am here to help you out and to help Greaney out and to help Jack Bogle out. I don’t do that by agreeing to go along with your lies about what the peer-reviewed research says. I do that by demanding (NOT just asking!) that you knock off the funny business.

    I naturally wish you all good things.


  3. Rob says

    That’s not an accident.

    My script is the last 33 years of peer-reviewed research in this field, Anonymous.

    I believe that it is better to follow the research than to follow your emotions. I see the benefit of following research as being that research is objective while emotions are subjective.

    I don’t say that the Buy-and-Holders do not believe subjectively in what they say. My take is that they do believe. That is, they lie to themselves before they lie to others.

    I don’t want to lie to myself OR others. So, yes, I follow the script of the peer-reviewed research in this field.

    That’s the source of all the conflict. The Buy-and-Holders SAY that they follow research. But the claim is a lie.

    There was once research that seemed to support Buy-and-Hold. But that research was discredited by subsequent research 33 years ago.

    My work is rooted in TODAY’S research, not the research that was available to us 33 years ago.

    The Buy-and-Holders want to continue to claim that their strategies are rooted in research. But they do not want the people who hear their message to know what the last 33 years of peer-reviewed research says.

    I call b.s.

    I call deception.

    I call financial fraud.

    I want no part of it. I intend to continuing following “the script.”

    It is not a script set by me. It is a script set by the academic researchers in this field.

    Show me the URL for a study showing that price discipline is not necessary and I will write a column about it.

    You cannot do it. There is no such study. It doesn’t exist.

    Buy-and-Hold is a lie, the biggest lie ever told in the history of personal finance.

    It was not a lie in the beginning. It was a mistake. That’s something different.

    But I think it is fair to refer to a mistake that has been covered up for 33 years as a lie.

    I don’t tell lies about the numbers that people use to plan their retirements.

    Please try to find someone else.

    I can’t go for that.

    No can do.

    It’s not my particular cup of coffee.

    I’ll stick with the script until I see some peer-reviewed research backing up the smelly Buy-and-Hold garbage.

    The full truth is that I don’t at this point expect ever to see it.

    My best wishes to you and yours.


  4. The Pink Unicorn says

    “I don’t think that I have made any mistakes, Anonymous.”



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