Knut Rostad's New Book Celebrates Bogle

January 31, 2014 Wall Street, as I love to say, can be the locus of lies and legalized theft. And John Bogle definitely has very different ideas. How does a man like this materialize? Because it’s extraordinary—and I use that word very, very advisedly.

Rostad: I think when you look at his background and you look at the difficult times he had in his earlier life—I don’t know how to sort of explain that more than that—and Jack says himself that if it weren’t for the fact that he ran across this article in the Princeton library in 1949, there never would have been a Vanguard and none of this would have happened.

That’s literally how it started. He ran across this article about big business in Boston and mutual fund companies back then. It piqued his interest and thus he produced his thesis.

His first employer at Wellington, who he just dearly loved, said after interviewing Jack for a job, “Jack Bogle understands our business better than we do.” I think that speaks to who he is and is one part of what explains how things came together.

But I don’t think of that as a full explanation. There may be far more truth to what Jack himself says about it in terms of pure luck and coincidence. So, how will we remember this man?

Rostad: Well, we have to wonder, What impact has Vanguard had? What impact has indexing had? We do have some quantifying data about that. And so there is that piece of it, but there is more research to be done, more exploration to be done to fully appreciate what it is, the difference it has meant for tens of millions of investors over the last 40 years.

And then the other piece of it is after Jack left the management of the firm, and over the last 18 years, how he has written books focusing on the issue of ethics. And that is what has gotten attention. I think that is what has been the main ingredient for what my third piece of the legacy is, and that is how he has touched people.

And some of these people are the highest, most respected luminaries, literally, in the country. As I like to say, he has perhaps the most respected investors in the world and the most respected people in public life, Warren Buffett and Bill Clinton, leading a virtual parade in his honor. And that parade includes a slew of other luminaries, including Paul Volcker and—I don’t want to leave anybody out—Paul Samuelson.

Samuelson compared the index fund to the invention of the alphabet and the wheel, and perhaps wine and cheese in terms of its significance. I don’t know anybody who could ever do it better than that. So in terms of his impact on people, Jack has a parade of luminaries that I think is unheard of outside of a national or international true leader.

Notwithstanding the huge accolades he’s gotten, he hasn’t been fully recognized for this impact. And that is what moves me now in terms of this book. More than selling books, I think the point is creating a fuller appreciation for exactly what Jack Bogle has done.



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