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Some Further Follow-Up and Yet More Clarification


Early in the narrative, when Pirsig is talking about why and how he and friends are traveling by motorcycle to Montana, he makes this observation:

We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than on “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis, the whole approach changes.”
(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, p. 5)

I’d suggest that a similar shift of emphasis can –-should be?-- be made. Nominally, the proposed project is about “bond” investing. But when a shift is made and the project becomes bond “investing”, then the whole approach changes, which is why I’d insist that the project be framed as “value investing” project.

Certainly, as you describe your own investing, the emphasis is on “investing”, not on bonds or stocks, and you describe yourself as liking and finding useful the methods of Ben Graham, which is an oft-quoted, but seldom read or studied text, which is yet another story. My value hero, Marty Whitman, has little kind to say of Graham and his descendents. But hashing that one out before launching the project amounts to attempting to settle wars over religion before one agrees to go fishing with a neighbor. The fishing and the neighborliness is what matters, and the arguments can wait.

If the project is framed as an exercise in value investing, then would-be participants need to get themselves up to speed in two areas: value investing and the technicalities of bonds. You’d advocate a reading of Graham’s classic (widely available in the 4th edition and cheap if picked up used, which becomes a value play on value). I’d suggest either of Whitman’s books, but there are plenty of middle ground alternatives, such as Harry Domash’s “Fire Your Stock Analyst!”, which is as solid a step-by-step approach to doing company analysis as I’ve seen. For the bond vocab, any introductory bond book would suffice, though my favorite is Wrights’. From there, the next move is straight into bond offering lists and SEC filings.

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