December 9, 2005
News & Opinion: The Soul of Capitalism: John Bogle Interview
One of my favorite books this year is The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the financial system undermined social ideals, damaged trust in the markets, robbed investors of millions—and what to do about it by John C. “Jack” Bogle, the founder of Vanguard (i.e. the pioneer of no-load index funds, which revolutionized the industry). This ambitious book requires your full attention. Bogle draws from his authority as a key player in the world of finance over the past 50 years, who has revolutionized the investment industry, witnessed huge changes, and never backed down from a fight. His book takes on the whole rotten system, and bears reading for a number of reasons.
Battle tackles the systematic rot gnawing at the effectiveness of large corporations, the power of small investors to beat the system, and the integrity of enterprise as many of us see it. Bogle cites isolates trends that other writers have noted, such as out-of-control CEO compensation, the dereliction of duty by boards, the systemic siphoning of profits away from investors by conglomerate-owned managed funds, and weaves them all together into a compelling overall argument. Not only that, but he writes wonderfully, to boot. It’s hard to argue with a book so smart and persuasive. The first chapter is available online as an excerpt. Here’s a nugget that I particularly enjoyed:
Over the past century, a gradual move from owner’s capitalism—providing the lion’s share of the rewards of the investment to those who put up the money and risk their own capital—has culminated in an extreme version of managers’ capitalism—providing vastly disproportionate rewards to those whom we have trusted to manage our enterprises in the interest of their owners. Managers’ capitalism is a betrayal of owners’ capitalism, a system that worked, albeit imperfectly, with remarkable effectiveness for the better part of the past two centuries, beginning with the Industrial Revolution as the eighteenth century turned to the nineteenth.
Earlier this fall I had the chance to do a question and answer with the man called Jack. Here’s what he said.
Q: Jack, you are one of the most influential investment figures of the past 50 years. Why have you written this book?