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A call goes out


mjohn707
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When the accounts of these difficult times are written one simply cannot entertain the notion that among the heroes that are lauded, the brave physicians and nurses on the front lines of this terrible disease, the devoted essential workers that kept the basic services and goods of our society flowing at no small risk to their own health, and the energetic organizers, wise scientists, and selfless charitable persons and organizations who acted to aide those that were most affected by this terrible situation, value investors will stand tall, perhaps even the very tallest among these other giants.  And every person would agree that when the call went out, value investors answered, not necessarily with financial assistance as the discipline has wisely chosen to defer those benefits to society for a later date, but with a golden river of knowledge and a veritable shower of golden ideas and analysis on how best others should direct their energies for our mutual benefit.  Our contribution and gift of knowledge and right thinking, while perhaps less tangible than what others might have contributed, and granted occasionally only in hindsight and after certain of the principal events of this tragedy had already transpired, will no doubt one day get due appreciation and appraisal, and we shall no doubt be fairly judged by history.

 

And what other tradition, and what other community of people was more prepared for this crisis than we were, not in some rude financial aspect as the occasional investment loss is totally unpredictable and unavoidable, but in a more important moral and intellectual sense.  Only the value investor has long specialized in platitudes, a veritable balm of Gilead in these trying times, and by dint of having no unique specialization of knowledge in any particular subject has uniquely and perhaps counterintuitively developed almost an universal expertise in nearly all subjects and topics, which luckily has either included virology and epidemiology or perhaps understood those topics by virtue of omission, as one might guess the shape of a missing puzzle piece by the image of what is already assembled.  And what discipline has access to the mental model, the most useful of any mode of thought, which even the lowest among us might employ in the multiple dozens, to bear the weight of the mental calculations necessary to instruct all nations and all of society in how to battle this scourge, and to summon the strength of will to see the task completed?  Only the value investor can do it, and only value investing can see us through.  And was our discipline content to hoard this knowledge and to withhold the gift of illumination from a darkening world?  Absolutely not, and we have saturated the airways and wires of this world with our august counsel and considered missives to an almost sickening degree, which we can only pray that the less enlightened will heed.  Of course our discipline remains principally contemplative by nature by virtue of comparative advantage, and the practical work must be for other hands.

 

The critics and other small people might complain that our own record in our own narrow field of investments seems to display a collective history of poor judgment and often drastic underperformance over a multitude of various benchmarks over a great deal of time, but the critic must remember that it is the man in the arena that counts, and if our own faces are not exactly marred by sweat, dust, and blood, we have at least been as inconvenienced as most, or at least as affected as most by our admittedly advantaged circumstances because of our particularly sensitive and empathetic natures.  It has almost been an unfair burden, which in addition to making investment decisions our discipline has been forced to study and understand all things and to plug the vast gaps of ignorance in nearly every other field of human endeavor because of the tremendous incompetence everywhere else, and if our own narrow performance in one little area has been unsatisfactory, it is because we have served society too broadly and ourselves not enough.  We are selfless and humble, likely among the most selfless and humble that have ever lived, and have done this world much service at no more that fair to high-fair pay, and it is no great wonder than we shall be remembered in the exact manner that we deserve.

 

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I'd rather not lump one group of society as invaluable while the rest are considered selfish, useless or unnecessary.  I would remind critics that many value investors/entrepreneurs allow businesses to survive, thrive and support valuable endeavours that normally might not get financing or support.  They also provide funds to non-profit organizations, spend personal hours working with those organizations and donate to hospitals, research, churches and organizations supporting first responders.  Yes, the real heroes in this battle are the doctors, nurses, supporting staff, government officials, grocery workers, pharmacists, researchers, first responders, etc...that doesn't make the rest of society useless...including the poor, lowly value investor.  Cheers! 

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Parsad is exactly right, there are people that must marshal their courage in the current situation, and people that must marshal their capital, and we must be careful not to undervalue those that marshal capital in this critical time.  And as the great bard and moral voice of England said, "They also serve who only stand and wait," although perhaps we can revise the one word to sit instead of stand to take into account our particular circumstances as investors.  And unbelievable we do this without applause in the evening

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