Enough: True Measures Of Money, Business, And Life, by John C. Bogle
The title and general message of this book, by the wise and sometimes insistent John Bogle, is taken from a poem that was written by the late Kurt Vonnegut about an experience he and Joseph Heller had when visiting the home of a billionaire, to which Heller commented as a retort to Vonnegut’s statement about the wealth disparity between the two that Heller had something the billionaire would never have–enough. Had the author been a more obviously religious sort of person or wishing to make an appeal, he could have gone to the wisdom of Agur  to point out that there are some things that never have enough. Had Agur been alive nowadays, he would probably say that financial croupiers and stockjobbers never had enough and added to his list. Intriguingly enough, I blog on the subject of there not being enough of something in someone’s eyes quite a bit more often than I thought , suggesting that like many people the author writes about, I have a hard time too with the sense of gentle contentment that the author is urging when it comes to financial matters and one’s way of living a modest and decent life in general.
This book is a small, quarto sized volume of a bit more than 250 pages that is divided into four parts and ten chapters. After an introduction where the author gives a touching and brief summary of his own early life and how it was he came to be a part of the madcap world of investing with such a distinctive and unusual philosophy in the field, the author divides the ten numbered chapters into three parts. First, the author discusses money (I) by arguing that there is too much cost and not enough value in most of investing (1), too much speculation and not enough investing in the stock market (2), and too much complexity and not enough simplicity when it comes to financial instruments (3). I find no disagreement with the author’s perceptions here. After that the author makes some trenchant comments about business (II) in averring that there is too much counting and not enough trust (4) in contemporary accounting, too much business conduct and not enough professional conduct in finance (5), too much salesmanship and not enough stewardship among financial managers (6), and too much management and not enough leadership in firms (7). After this the author makes some observations on life (III) in arguing that there is too much focus on things and not enough on commitment (8), too many twenty-first century values and not enough eighteenth-century values (9), and too much success and not enough character (10) at present, none of which I disagree with either. The author then closes out the book with a look at what is enough for us and for our country, as well as an afterword about his life and career and some acknowledgements, notes, and an index.
In reading this book I had a great deal of warmth and fondness for the way that the author went about his discussion, although his basis argument seems very familiar from book to book (this is the second book the author I have read/listened to, though, and I have a few more to go in the near future). In showing his own story and the way that he sought to distinguish himself through providing a low-cost index fund that would give as much as possible of the gains of business as judged by their returns on investment in the stock market to conservative and patient investors, the author showed himself to be a person of a great deal of decency that was qualified to talk about matters of life and money in a way that many people in his world are not so qualified by virtue of their own (mis)conduct. The author sounds like a person who it would be wonderful to sit and talk to at a lunch or dinner for a few hours, and ends up being someone I have invested pretty heavily in given my own fairly patient and conservative investment approaches myself.
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