People have been creating list of ‘greatest of all time’ for many reasons. The first reason is because we like to confirm our biases. We like to have some kind of hero figure, and build groups around those. We tend to take sides than to make comparison which is better than the other. This could trigger debates among masses but generally it is pretty useless in any practical sense.
The second reason for ranking people in such list is kind of historical. We can learn from people who perform better than the rest. This is more objective and rational approach, since it is based on facts and not on emotional biases, but instead design to understand better someone’s performance to shape better guideline for future generation. The first reason falls pretty much in gossip category and of relatively low utility, whereas the second reason is quite useful of anyone who want to learn from our history pioneers in any particular field.
From perspective of this website, the “greatest of all time” list has to be about greatest investors of all time. It would be easier to rank these investors on base of how their investments perform in long rum. For instance, list would be something like this:
- Warren Buffet
- Jim Simons
- Stan Druckenmiller
If we look for more objective and useful list based on people’s influence that can be easily replicated, then the list would probably would look like this:
- Harry Markowitz
- John Bogle
- Ben Graham
We often think of the as the greatest investors as those people who simply outperform. But the greatest investors are not who perform outstanding, but those people who create a process for more people to follow and perform better in their lives. For this reason alone, I would argue that the people on the second list reflect the true “greatest investors of all time”.
Some people might also add that Buffett should be on the second list because he has provided us with so many timeless lessons. I don’t necessarily agree. I have found much of Buffett’s commentary to be contradictory. I would argue that Buffett’s approach has always been much more sophisticated than he implies.