Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to another blog entry at this site:
Just a suggestion, perhaps you should post your rules for acceptable comments. The two comments from Laugh that you served up as today’s post certainly wouldn’t get through anymore.
Comments that add to our collective learning experience are encouraged. Comments that detract from our collective learning experience are discouraged.
I obviously approved the two comments by Laugh. And then I highlighted them by featuring them as a separate blog entry. I believed that there was a learning experience to be had by seeing them and thinking about what they signify.
If Laugh showed up every day and posted those same words to every blog entry here, I wouldn’t approve them every time. I can see approving the same comment more than once if it was used in two different places where it had some relevance. But I wouldn’t approve the same comment on a daily basis because it would be boring for people to read the same words over and over again.
You need to add something. That’s the bottom line. I’ve approved death threats. Death threats hurt us because they drive good people away. So my first reaction to a death threat is to want to delete it. But death threats signify something in this particular debate. They show how emotional Buy-and-Holders become when challenged with accurate reports of what the last 34 years of peer-reviewed research shows. People need to know how much pain the Buy-and-Holders are in. So I have approved a limited number of death threats. I don’t like them. I always criticize them in my responses (while also acknowledging the pain that they reveal and trying to do something to help reduce that pain). But I think that we need a small number of death threats on the record for the record to be complete.
I always consider the context in which a comment is offered. If you say “Bogle is great” as a comment to an argument that Bogle has made at least one big mistake, I would approve it because it expresses the other side of the story. If you said “Bogle is great” as a comment to an argument not relating in any way to Bogle, I would be less inclined to approve it. I might. Any argument on Valuation-Informed Indexing relates at least in an indirect way to Bogle. So it’s possible that that one would get through. It would help if there were another sentence or two explaining why you think Bogle is great.
But if you offered five comments to an article talking about Bogle’s mistake saying “Bogle is great,” I would approve at most two of them. The first one would be okay for the reasons outlined above. I might let the second one pass, especially if somewhat different wording was used. I would not approve the third comment saying the same thing in the same thread even if the comment considered by itself was relevant to the thread and non-abusive.
The comments that I deleted yesterday were just too argumentative. There was no content to them, just contentiousness. I first approved them because I felt that there was a tiny bit of something real to them. One of the issues on the table is whether site owners have a right to delete posts that do harm to their marketing efforts if those comments are backed by 34 years of peer-reviewed research. I say that that is fraud. A lot of good and smart people believe otherwise. I think that people will reconsider after they lose most of their retirement money in the next price crash. But we haven’t yet seen the consequences of these deceptions and so we have seen a lot of non-Goons make that sort of argument. So, while I always disagree with that argument, I usually approve comments making it. I personally view that argument as out to lunch but there are too many people who view it as containing something real for me to feel okay about deleting comments making it as a general rule. But there has to be at least a tiny bit of effort to develop the point evidenced. There were a couple of comments yesterday that showed zero effort. I approved them with the general rule in mind and then deleted them when I reread them a short time later.
If they had stayed up for a full day, I wouldn’t have gone back and deleted them even if I came to realize that they were lacking an effort to develop the argument. After a comment stays up for a day, I would consider it part of the record. And it is exceedingly rare for me to delete a comment even on the same day that I have approved it. But in this particular case I decided that that was the way to go.
You are right to suggest that I have gotten tougher re the approval of Goon comments in recent months. That’s because pretty much everything has been said multiple times and so new comments making points that have been made previously no longer add to our collective learning experience. It might be true that I would not approve Laugh’s second comment today; it would depend on whether it was phrased in a novel way or not. I would be inclined to approve the first comment.
The point that the cover-up of Shiller’s work is a funny sort of cover-up because his book has been widely reviewed and because he was awarded a Nobel prize is a very strong point for your side. This is NOT an ordinary cover-up. Our story is an exceedingly strange one. Lots of people have a hard time accepting that there is an ongoing cover-up of research that was awarded a Nobel prize and featured in a best-selling book. I say that there has been a cover-up of Shiller’s work. But it is a cover-up taking place in broad daylight.Exceedingly strange stuff. So I view the point that Laugh was making with that comment as a 100 percent fair one.
I do not approve of many of the tactics employed by you Goons. But I don’t at all say that you have never made good points in your comments here. There has been lots of good stuff mixed in with the garbage. Some of your best stuff related to the following points:
1) The fact that Shiller has been disingenuous in his presentation of his own ideas. I was reluctant to believe this for a long time. Shiller is a hero to me (as is Bogle, to be sure). But when a Goon is right, a Goon is right, you know? You guys (and witches) won me over on this one. Shiller has been disingenuous. He remains a Hero of the First Rank for the middle-class investor. I don’t take that back. But the way he states things is often confusing and that has hurt the cause in a serious way. So the point that you Goons made about him needed to be advanced. You gradually forced me to acknowledge that he has been disingenuous. It took me some time to acknowledge it but you were right re that one;
2) The fact that a big reason why Bogle did not call for investors to change their stock allocations in response to big valuation shifts was because he wanted Buy-and-Hold to be as simple as possible and saw this as an unnecessary complication. You haven’t made this point often but there was at least one series of posts in which you made it. I view this as a very strong point. I don’t think it was the only reason why Bogle took the path he did. But I think it was a major factor. It’s a motivation for which I have a good bit of sympathy because I think simplicity is critical and I believe that there is no one in this field who has done more to make investing simple for the average person than Bogle.
3) You questions about how markets really work and about how what we have seen in the stock market is something that we don’t see in other markets. These were the hardest questions for me to answer. I don’t say that I’ve gotten everything perfect in my responses. But I do think that I made reasonable points as a result of struggling with those questions. Those questions prompted a major learning experience for me. So I am exceedingly grateful for the pushback I saw from you Goons on a number of market-related questions.
4) Your points about how few investors are pure Buy-and-Holders or pure Valuation-Informed Indexers. I found these comments highly persuasive. I think that theory is VERY important. But it is also important to recognize that most average people are either suspicious of theoretical arguments or disinterested in them. Most investors follow a modified or compromised version of Buy-and-Hold. And there are more investors who follow a modified or compromised version of VII than there are who follow a pure version of the new model. This insight (which I picked up from my conversations with you Goons) has many practical implications.
I hope that helps a bit. I am always open to hearing new arguments, whether of the Goon or non-Goon variety. It is true that I am approving fewer comments today than I approved in the past. You Goons have been complaining for a long time that the words that appear at this site are repetitive. I haven’t generally gone along with that one. But I now think things have reached a point where there really IS a lot of repetition evidencing itself. So I am today less inclined to approve comments that make points that have been made many times before. You need to come up with something at least a little bit new or find some other way to make use of your time. I will not today approve a comment saying “hocus forgot to take his meds.” That’s so 2002!
Hang in there, man. It gets better. A LOT better.