In “The Courage to Be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, the authors lay out a clear case for how freedom comes from the willingness to be disliked. There are many other fine points in the book, which I read few weeks ago for the first time. I continue to ponder its messages and have been looking at how it applies in real life situations.
For instance, recently I read about the heat Vanguard is facing after deciding not to offer Bitcoin ETFs (or access to crypto-related purchases of any kind). Some Bitcoin enthusiasts have reacted fiercely, encouraging people to boycott Vanguard. This Fortune article explains the situation well, stating that by not offering Bitcoin ETFs, Vanguard is doing what it has always done–avoiding highly-speculative investments–and suggesting that the bad publicity will do very little to hurt Vanguard’s business.
I admit, the controversy struck a nerve. As a Vanguard fan and self-described “Boglehead,”* I have always respected and, more importantly, trusted Vanguard as a financial broker, among other things because it is the only brokerage that is owned by its shareholders. Also, I am not a Bitcoin investor, and would describe myself as skeptical of it. In fact, I wrote this post a little while ago: Day 5: Is Crypto the New Tulipmania?.
In this case, I admire Vanguard for sticking to its principles. I respect its choice to do what it feels is right for its investors, even when it differs from what is popular (and right now Bitcoin is obviously popular, which is why every other brokerage now seems to be offering Bitcoin ETFs now).
Vanguard has the courage to be disliked! It is not going to let the opinions of a current popular trend or an antagonistic minority stop it from doing what it has always done, just as Jack Bogle didn’t stop in the face of criticism when he put out the first index fund. They called it “Bogle’s Folly” back then, because people doubted the idea would ever take off.
How is this any different? Is Vanguard just supposed to change its tune, start going along with the parade just because Bitcoin is popular right now and some people are mad? Absent compelling evidence that Bitcoin is more than a speculative investment, why should Vanguard offer it?
Vanguard has the courage of its convictions. Sometimes that leads to being disliked.
*The term refers to fans of Jack Bogle’s investing philosophy, especially the use of index funds for long-term buy-and-hold investors. Bogleheads often refers to people who use Vanguard funds, though it is not limited to them.