Photo: AP

Che Guevara looks good in a beret, and Eldridge Cleaver had his moments, but today let us all take a moment to honor Real Motherfucking Hero of the People: John motherfucking Bogle, who has kept hundreds of billions of dollars out of the pockets of Wall Street greedheads.

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the world’s very first index fund. That index fund was the Vanguard S&P 500 index, and it was started by John Bogle.

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Bogle’s greatest insight was that the entire investment industry—the stock pickers and investment advisors and mutual fund managers who charged pricey fees in exchange for taking your money and investing it in allegedly smart ways—was full of shit. A ripoff. A true scam. An entire industry that could not justify its own existence. When all the math was done, it turned out that all these professional stock pickers and money managers were incapable of beating “the market” as a whole. The greatest obstacle to investing success turned out to be the high fees you paid to the motherfuckers who were doing the investing for you! John Bogle realized that people would be better off just investing their money in the entire stock market for a very cheap price. And so he created index funds to do just that.

The S&P 500 index fund launched 40 years ago with just over $11 million. Today, that same fund has over $250 billion. Vanguard, the company Bogle founded, today manages more than $3 trillion. The reason that is impressive is because Vanguard is owned by its own investors. Its incentives are not to raise fees to rip you off but in fact to lower fees to save you, the investor, money. Its product is quite simply better for the consumer and that is why it has been incredibly successful.

John Bogle has done more than any crusading socialist (in America) to take money out of the pockets of Wall Street con artists and keep money in the pockets of regular people. John Bogle founded a multi-trillion dollar investment firm and did not use it to make himself into a multi-billionaire, but instead used it to produce a good product at a fair price that saves money for everyone who uses it. One analyst at Bloomberg calculated this week that Vanguard has directly saved investors a total of $175 billion in fees that would have otherwise gone to Wall Street guys providing nothing of value; that it has saved investors an additional $140 billion in trading costs that would have provided nothing of value; and that it has saved outside investors $200 billion by forcing competitors to lower their fees to compete with Vanguard.

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Half a trillion dollars that would have gone to Wall Street motherfuckers for no good reason has instead gone to Joe and Jane Average investors and retirees, thanks to John Bogle. He could have easily skimmed a nice chunk of that money off the top for himself, but instead he has just spent decades and decades preaching the gospel of index funds, which happens to be a social good. What a nice guy. Wall Street hates this guy but I love him and so should you. It’s good to Occupy Wall Street and it’s good to Regulate Wall Street and it’s good to put the fear of populist insurrection into the heart of Wall Street every once in a while. But what has been more effective than any of those things so far has been undermining Wall Street’s ripoff business model. Not all revolutionaries carry machine guns. Some carry knowledge of compound interest, which is just as “cool.”

Salute to you John Bogle. You are hardcore, my man. We’ve all chipped in to buy you an Immortal Technique CD.