Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:
Over at Bogleheads.org they are celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the site’s founding. As you know, your behavior at morningstar.com played a major part in the creation of the board.
Feb. 19, 2017 is a very special day. It marks the 10th birthday of this Bogleheads.org forum.
Born out of frustration over the lack of moderation at our previous home, this moderated Bogleheads.org forum has been a remarkable success. Over the past 10 years, we’ve had over 3,000,000 posts on more than 200,000 topics. We now have nearly 57,000 members and about 10 times that number of guests (affectionately known as “lurkers”). Our viewer numbers are off the charts. We get more than 70,000 unique visitors per day from all around the world. The forum averages around 4,000,000 hits per day.
I’m grateful to you for providing us the link, Observer.
I am sure you understand that I do not agree with the thrust of the words quoted. I would say that there is great POTENTIAL value because of the 57,000 members and 570,000 (estimated) lurkers. Those people COULD be adding to the world’s knowledge of how investing works in a big way and it is certainly their intent and their desire to do so. But so long as fully honest posting on the implications of the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research is prohibited at the board, that potential cannot be realized.
In fact, the reality is just the opposite of the promised potential. So long as honest posting re the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research is prohibited, the board has a NEGATIVE influence. It does not help people learn how to invest effectively. It encourages them in the pursuit of their Get Rich Quick fantasies. The bigger the Bogleheads Forum is, the more harm it does, the more lives it destroys. And that will remain so for so long as fully honest posting re safe withdrawal rates and scores of other critically important investment-related topics remains prohibited.
This is as clear as anything could be clear to me, Observer. If the people running the Bogleheads Forum were thinking clearly, they would agree with me. If you asked them when they started the Vanguard Diehards board whether they believed that honest posting re the peer-reviewed research should be permitted, they would have said with zero hesitation that of course it should be permitted, that the question is an absurd one. They justified in their minds an exception to that belief when they were faced with my claim that it is not possible to calculate the safe withdrawal rate accurately without considering the valuation level that applies on the day the retirement begins and all of the ugliness that followed took place because they could not bear to live up to their own ideals. It was just too hard for them even to admit the possibility that their hero Jack Bogle had made a mistake when he failed to acknowledge the “revolutionary” (Shiller’s words) implications of Shiller’s finding that valuations affect long-term returns back when those findings became public back in 1981.
I believe that I possess a right and a responsibility to post honestly that must be respected at the Bogleheads Forum and at every other investing discussion board and blog on the internet. I believe that every one of my fellow community members, both my Valuation-Informed Indexing friends and my Buy-and-Hold friends, possess that same right and responsibility. I believe that it is a criminal act for me to fail to exercise that responsibility and for the site owners of the Bogleheads Forum to fail to respect that right.
I don’t believe that this one is a close call. I don’t believe that every act of financial fraud that has been revealed over the 15 years will be prosecuted because that would not be practical and because there is a mitigating factor of cognitive dissonance that applies (Bogle and the others who advocate Buy-and-Hold personally believe that it works). But still, in an objective sense it is a felony to insist that posters lie about the numbers that their friends are using to plan their retirements. I love my country and the relentless promotion of this dangerous and irresponsible lie has caused an economic crisis that has caused millions to begin to question their confidence in our system of government. So I don’t want to go there. Not in 15 years, not in 15 billion years. Re that one, my Boglehead friends are going to have to find someone else to participate at their board discussions (it appears from the words quoted above that they have been successful at finding quite a few someone elses).
I love my Boglehead friends, Observer. I wish them all good things. I agree with them on all issues other than the valuations issue and I believe that it is at least their intent to do good. But I cannot in good conscience participate in their discussions for so long as the Ban on Honest Posting re safe withdrawal rates and scores of other critically important investment-related topics remains in place. I believe with my heart , mind and soul that valuations affect long-term returns and that that reality (which has been known to those who follow the peer-reviewed research in this field for 36 years now) affects every issue considered at that board.
I cannot in good conscience put my name up in support of an enterprise that is in the process of destroying millions of middle-class lives and in an ultimate sense threatening the continued viability of the country that I love. I don’t believe that even a single one of my Bogleheads friends would participate in discussions held at that board if he or she were able to see clearly the things that I am able to see clearly because I have worked so hard for 15 years now to overcome the veil of cognitive dissonance that limits their vision today.
I love you guys, Observer. I wish you well. But we can not work together under the conditions that you insist on. I am not able to imagine any circumstance in which that could change.
I personally believe that conditions WILL change in a dramatic way following the next price crash. I believe that at that time we will come to be good friends. But I understand that there is nothing that I can say today that will persuade you that what I foresee happening will ever take place in the real world. So my only realistic option is to continue to do my best to get the word out re the implications of the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research at all places other than the Bogleheads Forum and to hope and pray that doing that successfully will in time generate pressure among responsible people in that board community to demand changes in the operation of that board My personal assessment at this stage of the proceedings is that my efforts will not bear good fruit until the days following the next price crash. But I will continue to give it my best shot. I can obviously do no more and I can obviously do no less.
I hope that all that helps a tiny bit, my long-time Goon friend. My best and warmest wishes to you and yours.