Both this book and Alan Greenspan's book "Age of Turbulence" have some stories that blend economics with politics. However, this author and Alan have different economic views. If you are new to economics then I recommend reading or listening to Alan's book first since it is an easier read. Both books touch on Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and John Maynard Keynes' idea of government spending during recessions.
This book is like reading three books in one. The first four hours covers some economists and how their ideas have influenced economic thinking. The next four hours covers examples like spillovers, the prisoner's dilemma, the market for lemons, and Keynes beauty contest. The rest covers musical chairs, the Millennium Bridge, and some of the major events that surround the current housing bubble. For me, I found the middle to be the most enlightening.
Our government has run between the extremes of de-regulation of the airline industry and the "nationalization" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This book is not a history of bubbles and crashes. While the latest crash is not in tulip bulbs, the ability of governments since then to smooth out the bubbles and crashes appears to be limited.
Experience is a good teacher. This book explains why. OCD patients have a bad habit. This book describes the four step process to break the bad habit. Learn how a stroke patient can regain some lost functionality. Learn how some students with language problems overcame them. Learn what some serious musicians facing career ending decisions done to overcome the struggle.
You could summarize the above in less than 30 minutes. But it would not include the history or the series of scientific experiments that changed the thinking of the scientific community.
Some Christians believe in “free will”. Others believe in predestination. The author makes the case for free will but from a Buddhist perspective.
And while many of the Ten Commandments contain “shall not”, the scriptures also contain some things to do. Philippians 4:8…Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest… think on these things.
Talent is Overrated. Some of the research presented by both books blends together.
I remember the story where a plant was compared with a marrigage. Given sun, water, and fertilizer in the right amounts, the plant thrives. But when oven cleaner was sprayed on one of the leaves, the leaf turned brown and died. Ann's background sounds like a number of leaves that were sprayed with oven cleaner.
Also, I was expecting the Christmas story to carry a Christian message. Instead, this one contains a Budda message.
The no ceremony marriage. Religion.
George Soros has written numerous books and regularly makes the news. Put his name in a search engine to get the latest. His experience includes running a hedge fund. He also has donated heavily to the Democratic Party. This book assumes that you are somewhat familiar with financial markets and economics. This book argues against economics being described in physical terms. If you have never heard economics described in physical terms then listen to the last chapter of the Panic of 1907. Unfortunately, both this book and the Panic of 1907 have a narrow view of economics. Listen to “The Making of Modern Economics” to get a much broader view. Also, unfortunately, there is a disconnect between a college education in economics and the financial markets. The book “How I become a QUANT”, describes how some economist needed their “on the job” training.
As for trading, a news article on 2/19/10 quoted the author as saying not to buy gold. On 2/19/10, the ticker symbol GLD closed at $109.47. A later article on 5/17/11 says that the author sold $ 800 million in gold in Q1. GLD closed at $144.74 on 5/17/11. Obviously, one sign of being a good trader is the ability to change your mind. A trader of a large position cannot behave the same as a trader of a small position. They have different trading needs. The book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator does a good job describing this difference.
The paper book Anatomy of a Bear does a better job of describing political history associated with bear markets. When FDR took office in March, 1933, most of the price damage to the DJIA had already been done. But the politicians didn’t sit on their hands. There were nine new bills targeting finance in the years 1933 to 1935. Taxes climbed from 0.7% of GNP to 4.7% of GNP in 1932 to 5.5% in 1934. Corporation taxes reached 95% in 1943. Highest rate of income tax reaches 90% on incomes of $1 million or more.
What I like best about the book is the story of the panic itself. I have not read another book that provides as much detail about the Panic of 1907 as this book. This book takes the news stories of that day and weaves them together. Each chapter builds on the last. And at the end, the authors take a chapter to present what they consider to be ideas common to later recessions. Think Great Recession of 2008.
If you want to know more about the stock market in the past and haven’t read “Reminisces of a Stock Operator,” then you should listen to that book first. That book also covers the San Francisco earthquake but also provides a story on how a trader traded the event. Think Japan on 3/11/11.
The last chapter takes a narrow view of economics. A wider variety of viewpoints are available in The Making of Modern Economics.
This is a book on economics. The authors want to introduce the concepts of 1) fairness, 2), confidence 3) corruption, 4) money illusion, and 5) stories as items on a list called “animal spirits”. While these are harder to put to numbers than creating something like a Consumer Price Index, the authors use them to answer eight questions. Some of the eight questions are as follows: 1) Why do economics fall into depression? 2) Why do central banks have power over the economy as fair as they so do? 3) Why are there people who cannot find a job? 4) Why is there a tradeoff between inflation and unemployment in the long run? 5) Why is saving for the future so arbitrary? 6) Why are financial prices and corporate investments so volatile? 7) Why do real estate markets go through cycles? 8) Why does poverty exist for generations about disadvantaged minorities?
Our world has a number of countries with different types of governments. From an economic viewpoint, the ones on the extreme ends of the scale are Singapore and Germany. European countries such as Germany have more governmental regulations than the US. Countries like Singapore have less. The authors are big fans of Keynes and thus would like to see government become bigger and thus more like a European government. Fortunately, the book does not devote much time to politics. Two books that are heavier in politics but with opposite viewpoints are Jack Welch’s Straight From the Gut and the one written by a leader of the Security Exchange Commission (SEC). The title is Take on the Street.
What I like best about this book is the way history is brought to life in the form of stories. These stories include the rise of currency, bond market, stock market, insurance market, real estate market, and China. Much of the earlier chapters occurred prior to the introduction of the US stock market. So if you are interested in early stock market tales then I would recommend listening to Reminisces of a Stock Operator. If you interested in US financial history prior to 1990 but in the 1900’s then try The Book of Investing Wisdom. If you’re interested in economic recoveries then read Anatomy of a Bear.
This book includes the rise of the Rothchild family, Dutch Indian Spice Trade, cotton bonds by the Southern Confederacy, international investing by the British prior to 1914, the gold standard, Amsterdam stock market, insurance benefits for priests, founding of Hong Kong, risk (hurricanes, welfare state, hedge funds) micro loans etc. When I hear of the British health care system I think of the recent heath care reform.
Why presented as financial history it comes across as economics. Quants and company financial statements it is not. It could have been made stronger by tying some of the subject matter more closely to theory. For example, the book “Age of Turbulence” looks to understand why many oil rich countries do not have strong economies. When discussing the mountain of silver in Latin America, there is not much talk of why a resource can hinder economic development.
Because much of the information is historical storytelling, it can come across as interesting when new and slow when old. I considered the stories of Enron, Katrina, Long Term Capital, and the financial crisis of 2008 to be the slowest. And I could have done without the comparison of “human” evolution with “financial” evolution.
The first story is about a homeless man who wants to be thown in jail so that he can have a warm place to stay for the winter. However, the crimes he commits does not accomplish his goal. Thus the story promotes 1) being selfish, 2) crime is rewarding, and 3) doing good will send you to jail. Thus the story misses an opportunity to 1) encourage doing civil service work or giving to charity, 2) stealing is wrong, 3) one way to have food to eat is to do work. I do not consider it a good Christmas story.
If you have an open mind, then this book is for you. It will confirm many of your beliefs and possibility challenge some others. But be forewarned, this book covers such as wide variety of topics that there is a good chance that you will find yourself on the wrong side of at least one good argument. What matters most is that you grow from the experience.
The book covers a number of topics. These include rush hour traffic, real estate prices in California, CEO pay, college personnel pay, pay by gender, crime in cities, urban slums, slavery outside North America, foreign aid, third world countries, and discrimination. Usually a chapter is devoted to a topic. Each topic contains many questions. Supporting information comes from history, census data, and other economic sources. For example, the lives of the Indians changed when the European settlers brought horses to North America.
Since 2008, many economic facts still ring true. In August, 2010, Beijing has a ten day traffic jam. California real estate prices are still high. CEOs still get paid a lot. The earthquake in Haiti reveals a poor government. Nigeria does not protect its oil industry. The nationalization of the oil and gas industry does not make a country rich.
The book includes a sales pitch to buy commodities and foreign stocks through the author’s services. However, being bearish on the US economy, I’m surprised that the author was bullish on commodities. Commodities typically fall as the economy moves toward recession and typically rise as the economy strengthens. Thus the price reflects changes in supply and demand. For example, if the US unemployment rate rises from 5% to 9.5% then there are 4.5% of them that will have a different set of gasoline and heating oil needs.
Written in the summer of 2008, the book was written after the price of oil has climbed from closing at $58.51 on 2/17/2007 on its way to $145.29 on 7/3/2008 and later falling to $34.43 on 2/12/2009. Obviously from the above numbers the price of oil is very volatile and has the ability to affect inflation numbers as measured by the Consumer Price Index.
Also, some oil exporting countries benefited as the price of oil rose. These include Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and Norway. Likewise they fell as the price of oil fell.
Overall, the author contributed to my view of economics. The book includes numerous examples to help illustrate economic points. Many of these examples would be suitable for sound bites on TV.
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