Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:
Gasp!!!! She wants you to forget the past? How could you ever be expected to do that, Rob?
I don’t want to forget the past, Anonymous. I want to learn from the past.
I want to move on to a better place. I want a better life for my children tomorrow than I have today. I want that for your children too. And for Jack Bogle’s children. I want us all to move forward. You don’t get that by pushing the lessons of every day down the memory hole one by one by one until 35 years of them have been pushed down.
I often say that “I love my country.” That’s my four-word response when people like Jaime (who I obviously respect and like) and people like yourself (who I also respect and like, whether you are wiling to acknowledge it for not) tell me to “forget the past.” I love my country because my country has always been a place where we move forward over time, where we learn from the past rather than push it down the memory hole and forget it.
The past happened, Anonymous. Forgetting it is a lie. I don’t want to tell that lie. I want to be kind in what I say about the mistakes that were made in the past. Part of the message being conveyed when someone says that we should “forget the past” is a message of kindness. That part of the message I endorse. It’s the other part of the message — the part that says “don’t learn from the mistakes of the past” — that I reject.
You don’t want to go to prison. I get that. I understand the feeling. I am sympathetic. I have said that I would be happy to do anything in my power to keep you out of prison. What else can a person do? I am not willing to “forget” the past in the way that you are proposing. But I am willing and happy to make our collective acknowledgment of the past as painless as possible for every single person involved. Does that cut it for you? If not, why not? You insist that we not learn from the past. That’s where we part company. That’s where we have a disconnect.
I am 100 percent certain that, had Shiller published his “revolutionary” (his word) research findings in 1961 rather than 1981, the initial version of Buy-and-Hold would be what I today call “Valuation-Informed Indexing.” Problem solved, right? Me and Bogle and Linduaer and Greaney would all be on the same side. That’s the perfect resolution. That’s what I want. That’s what we all should want.
How do we get there?
By forgetting the past?
Or by acknowledging the past while adopting a charitable perspective on every single thing that happened in the past so that we can obtain from the past all of the good learning experiences that we need to mine from it while kicking out all the nastiness and friction that we all know deep in our hearts we need to avoid?
I think that we need to ACKNOWLEDGE the past in a charitable way. I think that we need to LEARN from the past and then move forward together to something better than what we were capable of creating in the past. Doing that takes Jack Bogle’s contributions and transforms them into something ten times more important than what they appeared to be at the time when he was the most popular he has ever been (this was at the top of the bubble in early 2000).
And I am portrayed by you Goons as a Bogle hater. I am the best friend that Jack Bogle ever had in his life. I am the one trying to take Bogle’s ideas and make them real. I am the one trying to preserve the good in Buy-and-Hold while leaving behind the one mistake and thereby taking the concept to a place that Jack Bogle never dreamed it could go.
I am the one following the SPIRIT that created Buy-and-Hold. It didn’t start out as a lie, a con, a Get Rich Quick scheme, a fraud, a marketing gimmick, a Ponzi scheme. Buy-and-Hold started out as SCIENCE, something objective, something real. That was a huge advance. It was because of that huge advance that I fell in love with the Buy-and-Hold concept and continue to pursue that initial vision to this day.
Jack Bogle BETRAYED the spirit that he employed to create Buy-and-Hold when he endorsed Mel Lindauer’s death threats and demands for unjustified board bannings and tens of thousands of acts of defamation and threats to get academic researchers fired from their jobs. That stuff is not science. That stuff is a big pile of smelly garbage. That’s why we have laws that we use to put people putting forward that kind of stuff in prisons. We have decided as a people that we cannot tolerate too much of that smelly garbage. Go too far with that stuff and we put you in a prison cell because we need to protect the millions trying the best they can to provide for their retirements. That stuff crosses a line. So we collectively condemn it. For good reason.
Science changes over time, Anonymous. That’s just how it works. Doctors once believed that bleeding patients was the best way to treat many diseases. They were wrong. They hurt lots of people. Unknowingly. It happens. We had to accept that and move on. And we did.
Investing experts once believed that it was not necessary to engage in price discipline when buying stocks. They were wrong. They hurt people. Unknowingly. Same story.
When Shiller published his “revolutionary” (his word) research, the story changed into something that in the not-too-distant future will be putting you and your Goon friends in prison cells, in some cases for a very long time indeed. A mistake that has been covered up for 35 years (with death threats and all the other smelly garbage noted above) is no longer a mistake. A mistake covered up for 35 years is a CRIME. A felony. A prison sentence. It’s not Rob Bennett who says so. It is the people of the United States who say so. Take it up with them you know? Direct your hate at the people of the United States who supported enactment of the laws against financial fraud, not at the humble reporter who happened to be the first to speak up clearly and bluntly and firmly about what has gone down here.
The people of this country need to have a means to determine what the last 35 years of peer-reviewed research tells us about how stock investing works in the real world. This is not a nice idea. This is the law. This is not elective. This is 100 percent imperative. This is going to happen.
People are not going to permit our economic system to fail because a good and smart man named Jack Bogle made a mistake once upon a time and now has spent 35 years of his life covering up that mistake and because that makes people feel real sad for him. People do feel sad. Properly so. Bogle is a giant. A giant who fucked up. That’s the reality. Jaime is wrong. We cannot continue to push that reality down the memory hole. For Jack’s sake (and for everyone else’s sake as well), we need to ACKNOWLEDGE the past in a charitable spirit, not forget it. To forget the past is to ruin my good friend Jack Bogle’s reputation for all time. To dishonor this great man and this good friend in this way is unconscionable. This cannot be. This will not be. I will see to it. Count it. Non-negotiable.
I hope you understand what I am saying. I hope it clicks this time.
This will not end well for you Goons. If I have my way, the ugly stuff will end today and we will together achieve the best possible result for you Goons that it is possible for us to achieve at this point in the proceedings. You can count on me to do everything in my power to see that that happens. But I have seen too much to place any bets on this beautiful dream of mine coming true. There’s a good chance that you will elect to play it so that your prison sentence ends up being a little longer than it has to be. Heaven help us all, perhaps you will play it so that your prison sentence ends up being a lot longer than it has to be. Once a Goon, always a Goon, and so forth and so on and scoobie, doobie, doobie.
I am on your side, Anonymous. I am on Jack Bogle’s side. Jaime WANTS to be on your side and Jack Bogle’s side. But she is worried about what it would mean for her business for her to come out publicly and take your side in clear and firm and blunt words. You will need to reassure her with some reasonable words. Or Bogle will need to do so. I can offer you a 100 percent guaranty that, once you or Bogle offer those reassurances, you will have your friend Jaime fighting the good fight alongside your friend Rob. It is in your power to make that happen. It is not in my power to make that happen today. If it were, I would do it. But it is in your power to make it happen. I will naturally help out to the best of my ability.
We don’t want to forget the past. We want to acknowledge the past and move forward with a charitable spirit into a much brighter and more prosperous and more fun and less combative future.
I am sure.
Love is the answer, man. The hippies were right about that one even if they were terribly mixed up about the drug thing.
Please take good care.