Wednesday, January 15, 2003

A few months ago, in response to Daniel Gross' silly Slate article on the S&P 500, I argued that uninformed stockholders were being ruined by their mindless recitation of the "stocks outperform bonds" mantra. When I posted my comments to the Slate Fray, one reader responded tartly, "[l]ong term the S&P does well. Read the facts." Clearly the cult of retail stockholding dies hard.

I was reminded of this incident on reading Daniel Drezner's amusingly self-mocking cultural analysis of his mutual fund's annual report. Apparently, his fund is using the excuse of "corporate greed and ambition" (i.e, various accounting scandals) to explain its abysmal performance, and Drezner now wonders whether this contemptuous attitude towards aggressive capitalism is necessarily the frame of mind he wants his investment managers to cultivate.

Now, Drezner seems like a bright guy--not many people can blog their way onto my "better than their exposure" list, after all--and perhaps his life savings have been allocated with much greater caution than his complaints would suggest. But after three years of overall market decline, and with the price-earnings ratios of the major indices still well above their traditional "sell" tripwire levels, outghtn't he at least begin to consider that the stock market might just be the wrong place for his money? And if he doesn't, what on earth will it take before he and millions of his fellow unquestioning shareholders finally get the message?

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