I enjoyed this. I like my tech/math learning mixed with bios and personal color, a bit like "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Dealing with numbers for a long time, I like to switch to related, but story-type stuff, so I can still stay within the subject while relaxing and letting my mind rest and refresh a bit. Here, the pseudo-autobiography style, as if in the voices of the mathematicians speaking of their own lives, worked alright. I wish these were longer though, because by necessity, the author must compress big, deep-thinking and event-filled lives into short times, and a lot is left out. The big math ideas are not deeply addressed at all. So, it serves to learn more elsewhere about the math AND the lives. It might help a young person, especially a bright and inquisitive one, to feel motivated to dig into the subjects more.
This subject somewhat overlaps with that of another audible book, "Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation." The common subject would be how (and by what mechanisms) ethical standards and behaviors emerge from our human condition, alongside or apart from the classical religious explanations. How, also, do these propagate across society, across physical distances and over time?
This is a decent survey of the subject.
From time to time the explanations seemed to bog down and get a bit repetitive, as if the author assumed I didn't get the straightforward explanation the first time, and so rephrased the matter perhaps three ways. Some may benefit from this. However, these passages went quickly enough.
As to the narrator's performance, at first I was very put off by the lack of gravitas in her voice. I do not wish to be insulting, but right away I was stricken with the jarring image of a chirpy, cheery, over-dramatic gum-chewing "valley girl" type reading a scholarly work. Little bursts of energy seemed injected into sentences with no relevance to the content, as if the narrator was trying (too hard) to liven up a subject she perhaps thought in need of it. Fortunately, her voice seemed to slow down and mature a bit, fairly quickly into the work, though that sort of tone lingers, distractingly, throughout. Perhaps it was just out of fatigue, but it improved considerably, just after the introduction.
Here we have sharply etched characters, and this reader squeezes every drop of liveliness and absurditry from the prose. I apprecaie this longer sample to really get a flavor of the full novel. It occurred to me that this has more humor and wit in it than most all of the supposedly funny shows in popular culture since my youth. And amazingly, Dickens apparently was pouring this stuff out in installments. The full book would be like 36 hours of continuous presentation of the best moments of anyone's favorite comedy shows (not forgetting the very tragic aspects too) of the last 50 years.
This author had an amazing ringside seat (and often, very important participation) in decades of Washington and Wall Street events of the latter 1800s. It helps to have some knowledge of the overall history and characters (from General/President Grant to Cooke, Gould, etc.). I greatly enjoy the older language style. Many events are described, in the fashion of the time, by reference to classical, Biblical, or Shakespearean scenes. But what emerges most pleasingly to me are the many stretches of tongue-in-cheek, satirical description, so wonderfully sheathed and understated. The true but often hidden intentions and aims of the characters are thus wittily and a little caustically displayed. I only wish this included the full length of the original, I am told was over 1,000 pages in length. A vivid sample: the author is in Washington as the Civil War looms, helping its financing, and sees massive shipments of cannons rolling by, realizing this will be a long difficult struggle. This, in turn, affects his own choices in the markets, and advice to the parties he owes it to. Many a character is introduced with just enough anecdotal detail to bring the person to life, and many capsule biographies are presented. But the story moves along well.
Law fans may get much pleasure from this short book. A surprising amount is revealed about the 13th century political economy in England, in non-technical terms (along with the archaic terms in the document, as translated from the original Latin, most of which are defined clearly here). I got a feel for the relationships between various groups in that society I never had before. Laws were built from a layered sense of order, privilege and obligation extending from God to the lowliest serf. The author's comments and asides are more informal than those in a typical academic work, occasionally veering into personal opinions, but always very briefly. Sometimes this works well by revealing some angle I hadn't thought of; and occasionally it seems a little out of place. I was surprised how many legal issues I had thought more modern, were addressed in the Magna Carta. The author's comments sometimes point out legal loopholes that could be, and surely were, exploited with dubious ethics and methods, much as they are today. The Magna Carta was in part an attempt to codify rules more openly and clearly, to stop some of these abuses.
... on everything, but if you want to see, blow by blow, how a business and insurance genius built a world-beating company, have a look. This man's success is not hard to understand, in this light. There are several books out (on audible as well) on aspects of this topic, but nobody has told Mr. Greenberg's story, anything like this. It is filled with action, conversations, confrontations, all the dynamics on the way up. The way things unfolded for AIG in recent times was very unfortunate, and I'm not going to get into one side or another of the blame game. Whatever your conclusions may be about it, this is time well spent for anyone following the story, or aspiring to climb in the corporate world, or just for the avid business history fan. And I love that this book delves into the insurance themes, substantially (if lightly enough to keep moving). Many authors seem to think they can tell the AIG story (and perhaps sell books) as some sort of catchy human-drama-and-hubris story while omitting that. It is important to see what products Mr. Greenberg was innovating and selling, as a part of the description, to really get the story.
I wish every high school student could hear this, just to get a decent start understanding our market economy, banking, regulation, and related topics. I have taught business law in a similar style for many years, and was for a time a trial lawyer, requiring similar skills. While plenty of this is obvious to me, I was yet pleasantly surprised from time to time throughout it, by elegantly simple images clarifying a concept. Imagine water passing from tanks into a kids' pool to explain the banking system, money supply and liquidity; and a pyramid of champagne glasses catching pouring champagne, sequentially, to explain tranches in a CDO. Likewise, we get a clear depiction of the web of derivatives and other interconnected deals enmeshing the banks as the '08 crisis unfolded. I am a fan of having a good simple starter image, the mind can readily grasp, and upon which a more advanced understanding can be built. Missing this elementary stage often slows my learning process. If a teacher cannot give us at least a good working basic image, in this manner, I'll wager (1) it is not a very good teacher, or (2) the teacher doesn't really understand the subject, and hides behind the jargon. More please, Paddy Hirsch!
This author compactly, eloquently, I will say at moments, lyrically describes capitalism, its facets, its dangers, its meanings and effects, its penetration into our lives and the meaning we assign to things and live by, its recent developments and its prospects, worldwide and throughout history. In terms of meaningfulness, alongside clarity of explanation and reach of imagination, such that a non-technician can get a great harvest of understanding in a minimal investment of time and effort (and that's a very capitalism-influenced way of describing it), I would rank this author and book in the second rank, all time (the first rank being occupied exclusively by Adam Smith, the second rank including others, many of whom are quoted and acknowledged in this book, such as Schumpeter and Weber). He might be as biased as any human is, generically, but he is in no sense "on a side," or "selling a view," in some partisan way. Here is an amazing synthesis of so much of economics and culture, often held up in lights I had not imagined. In describing these things of great complexity, this author dances through the task. This hasn't been like reading a book, it has been like continuously having my mind opened, continuously being shown new vistas and horizons on things I thought familiar. It is like getting a tour of my own society conducted by some alien from another whole system that understands it better than I do.
If this guy gives a class, writes a book or even puts out a rap album, sign me up.
I have found no better explanation of issues in the financial services industry (and its regulation) in recent times. The authors move briskly between relevant history, summaries of the Act's provisions, and commentary, highlighting weak spots. The familiar names, Lehman, AIG, etc., appear alongside the Act's attempted fixes. I think it needful, going in, to be reasonably literate in the terminology, concepts, the main players, and the basic narrative of recent years. It is too dense (though clear) to be a starter on these topics. For a more beginning listener, I would recommend "Managed by the Markets."
I have respect for Michael Milken, and have avidly read some other publications of his Institute. I wonder particularly whether the date of this lecture was stated, and I missed it? It is a very interesting idea, investing in our own undercapitalized domestic "emerging markets," such as blighted urban areas. I think some version of this may really be a signpost to solving many issues of our times (and the planet's future). But then Mr. Milken couples this with securitization, and I'm scratching my head, wondering, isn't this what was tried circa 1998-2008? Isn't this what the coalition of Dems and Repubs nudged the whole financial system into doing? And wasn't that the nexus of our global financial implosion? That's why I'm confused as to when this lecture was made, or whether I am missing something here. I will try to find more from him on this, perhaps of clearly recent vintage, and more thorough.
This work is clear, well-structured, well-paced, and understandable. It moves fluidly between practical pointers (sometimes checklist-like, with nice summaries) and examples that keep it moving nicely. I admire the work of a professor who has obviously invested plenty of time, thought and experience into making such a crafted and polished product. I have read other books in this area (most recently "Guide to Decision Making" by H. Drummond here at audible), and I do like to sample around, but this one for me is head and shoulders above anything I've seen. Plugging these suggestions in to current decisions (alone or with others) makes me feel more like I am flying with "instruments" versus guessing with gaping (unknown) blind spots. Yet, the approach is not "paint by numbers:" good human reckoning is still required, but augmented with the assistance of various guides, reminders and prompts along the way. I'm sure I will listen through this one again.
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