VISION AND CHARACTER
LET ME INTRODUCE the great ideas in finance presented in this book by focusing on the author of them.
Virtue is a word that tends to embarrass us today. Perhaps we have lost a bit of the easy confidence that permitted earlier ages to believe in a fixed universe of good and evil. We are now very sensitive to the fact that in a diverse society we may not agree on the characteristics that constitute virtue, and today we may be on guard lest we be thought to impose our own contestable views of goodness on others who don't share them.
Yet in introducing the collected speeches of John Clifton Bogle I can start with no word other than virtuous to describe the author of these pieces, even if that word seems quaint to our ear. For John Bogle's life reflects such a deep commitment to the concepts of duty, honor, candor, diligence, and service to others that the most complete summarization of the man is to say that he is a man of high virtue. In an age that sometimes seems to have tried to raise gratification of the self to the status of a virtue, his life reminds us that the value of a life is measured by how one affects the lives of others, not by either celebrity or by balance sheet.
The power to affect the welfare of others positively is the aspect of business that gives it nobility. Bill Gates—arguably our most successful businessman—is, I suggest, not a great man because he is worth an astronomical sum. On that, I trust, we would all agree. If he is ...