“What should they know of England who only England know?” asked Rudyard Kipling, the bard of the British Empire, in a poem, ‘The English Flag’, that lamented the miserable ignorance of the average English person about the necessary brutality on which the empire – and their standard of living – rested.
Like other phrases of Kipling’s – “the white man’s burden”, “the female of the species...” – this one became embedded in the language and is usually modified to “what do they know of England that only England know”. As such, it is both critical and generic. Critical because, obviously, it hints at a lazy insularity that generates little understanding; generic because the question can be posed about any subject that is substituted for ‘England’.
Thus we can ask: what do they know of investing that only investing know? The implication remains clear. Those that only investing know; those who, for instance, only know of relative strength indicators, price/earnings ratios, or the VIX index of market volatility think they know it all, but actually know little, understand less and worst – much like those who “vapour, fume and brag” in Kipling’s poem – don’t even know how little they know.