Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:
“I didn’t cause any of this problem.”
Of course not. By any measure you have lots of problems. But you in no way caused any of them. Every word said, every action taken, every decision made, was exactly correct. And yet, nothing of substance to show for any of it. Just a big fat kersplat.
I’ve got the entire site, Anonymous.
I’ve got five calculators that exist nowhere else on Planet Internet. I’ve got over 200 articles. I’ve got over 200 one-hour-long podcasts. I’ve got thousands of blog entries. I’ve got close to 200 Guest Blog Entries. I’ve got 350 entries for one weekly column and over 100 entries for a second and over 100 entries for a third. I’ve got endorsements from thousands of my fellow community members and from a good number of the most respected names in the field. I’ve got my name on the most important piece of peer-reviewed research published in this field in over 30 years. And I’ve got a Nobel prize awarded to the fellow who showed that what I said in my famous post of the morning of May 13, 2002 — that valuations affect long-term returns — is so. And of course I’ve got laws stating that financial fraud is a felony in the United States, punishable by imprisonment.
I’ve got lots.
And I’ve got a funny feeling that the people of the United States will be putting all of the materials available at this site to good use in the days following the next price crash. I’ve even got a funny feeling that my good friend Jack Bogle will be helping us out re those efforts at that point in the proceedings. A fellow with some pull. You might have noticed.
We’ll see, you know?
No, I don’t think that I have contributed in any way, shape or form to the problem (with the small exception noted below). I started the chain of events rolling. It’s my name on the famous post from the morning of May 13, 2002, pointing out that the retirement study housed at John Greaney’s web site does not contain a valuations adjustment. But it is not the pointing out of that reality that is the problem. It is the COVER-UP of that reality that is the problem and that has been the problem going back to 21 years before I even came on the scene.
The problem is that Jack Bogle did not give an “I Was Wrong” speech or an “I’m Not Sure” speech within a few days of the publication of Shiller’s “revolutionary” (his word) research findings of 1981. I even bent over backwards re that one and advanced the thought that Bogle was suffering from cognitive dissonance at the time, the most charitable explanation of the events that have played out since that could possibly be ascribed to them.
I didn’t cause the problem. Robert Shiller didn’t cause the problem. Wade Pfau didn’t cause the problem. The thousands of community members who have expressed a desire that honest posting on the last 36 years of peer-reviewed research be permitted at every site on the internet didn’t cause the problem. The policymakers that made financial fraud a felony under the laws of the United States didn’t cause the problem.
The most direct cause of the problem was Jack Bogle. If he had given an “I Was Wrong” speech or an “I’m Not Sure” speech within a week of the day that Shiller published his “revolutionary” (Shiller’s word) research showing that valuations affect long-term returns, Greaney would have included a valuations adjustment in his study and neither you nor I would have ever experienced any problem, Anonymous.
But it is not fair to pin this on Bogle alone. Shiller could have written in his book that “my research obviously discredits the Buy-and-Hold strategy,” that would have solved the problem. If Motley Fool had said “our rules do not permit the behavior that we have seen from the Greaney Goons, we obviously are going to permit honest posting on retirement planning at this retirement planning site,” that would have solved the problem. Had Wade Pfau said “I am not going to be responsive to intimidation tactics, I am going to work with Rob to get our research featured on the front page of the New York Times,” that would have solved the problem. And on and on and on and on and on.
And, yes, if you want to be all-encompassing about it, I contributed in a small way to the problem from May 1999 through May 2002, the three years in which I knew about the error in Greaney’s retirement study and rationalized not speaking up about it because I feared what his Goon squad would do to me if I did dare to speak out. Pretty much all of us have contributed to the problem in some way, shape or form over the course of the past 36 years. We all contributed to the problem and we are all today paying a price for our cowardice.
What do you propose we do about it?
We could continue to live in fear. In that event, more and more and more people will suffer in more and more and more ways. That one doesn’t sound like such a hot idea to me.
Or we could all pull together to make life better in about 50 different ways for every human living on the planet today and have a lot of fun doing it. That one sounds better.
I don’t decide for anyone but me.
You are going to do what you decide to do, Anonymous. And Bogle is going to do what Bogle decides to do. And Wade Pfau is going to do what Wade Pfau decides to do. And Robert Shiller is going to do what Robert Shiller decides to do.
Rob Bennett votes for the choice that helps us all to live far richer (in every sense of the word) lives from this day forward. While acknowledging that he gets to decide for Rob Bennett only no matter how much he hopes that lots and lots of others make the same exciting and positive and constructive and life-affirming choice.
That’s it, man.
When things reach a point at which you want to begin living a better life, you will begin living a better life. When things reach a point at which all the others want to begin living better lives, they will all begin living better lives. The first step to making huge steps forward (Shiller was awarded a Nobel prize for his revolutionary research findings of 1981) is acknowledging that there was a time when you didn’t know it all, that there was some possibility of achieving an advance.
I am ready to move forward. When enough others are ready to join me, we will get about enjoying life on the other side of The Big Black Mountain. There will be no apologies from this boy for having suggested in earlier days that we make the journey together at the earliest point in time possible. I love my country. Achieving huge advances every now and again is what this country is all about. If we ever reach a point where we see in other fields of human endeavor the sort of resistance to new ideas that we have seen in the investing advice field over the past 15 years, we won’t be seeing those 6.5 percent average annual real returns in the stock market anymore; it is the productivity gains rooted in occasional huge advances that support the high average returns that in the past have permitted so many of us to retire at reasonable ages.
I naturally wish you the best of luck in all your future life endeavors, my long-time Buy-and-Hold friend.