A person who has followed the press on this law closely probably knows most of this. But it is a good background and basic primer on this law.
I had expected a polemic against the law, based on the title, but as amazon book reviews made clear, it presents pro and con arguments neutrally, without a slant to "beat" this law. That's good, because I would not pay for an earful of shrill complaining, I just want to know the nuts and bolts of the law as it stands.
Another title might be, "mud wrestling in a tangled snake pit over the privilege to steal other people's money." Yet another, "a bipartisan masterpiece of machinations and sleaze: following the bread crumbs, naming names, good and bad, and among the bad, the incredibly slippery." A few slither away with big money, and the final bill, in a familiar story, is handed to the taxpayer, with Congress hacks helping the perps, greatly enlarging that bill, and altogether making us all measurably poorer for life.
This may be a by-product of every go-go era, and go-go-eras have produced some great good for the public. This book focuses on the exploiters of such times, and I think we probably have another such prosperous phase of the cycle coming (so watch out).
Did Alan Greenspan really say he thought there shouldn't be fraud laws (as attributed here, as having been remarked to Brooksley Born?) If so, wow.
People plus econ theory can go to some very abstract, exotic places. That is, until one realizes: many hacks in the private and public sectors have their bread fundamentally buttered with information asymmetry: they actively embrace the view of a world of suckers and the suckered. The manipulators (and their house theory-propounders) make huge fortunes from it, want it, and must think the defrauded get what they deserve. Why should we slow down and take note of the fools who just haven't paid the information costs of being kingpins (and thus, in a sense, deserve their losses, and bargained for them)?
It is an interesting ethos and set of questions. Some version of it is also a central cash flow machine for a huge political and business elite, despite the protestations of many (hauling out the easy bumper sticker phrase) that this is merely the magical free market in operation. (Adam Smith knew better, castigating fraud and what is now called agency problems, but who really reads him? Might as well watch the adult cartoons on TV creatively cherry-picking his writings.) After all, the market finds its equilibrium at some point, and by then, the winners have unassailable amounts of winnings, free and clear and oh-so-cleverly stashed. The armies of well-greased syncophant experts see to that. Except that the defrauded in this latest round of this phenomenon (2008) are unprecedented numbers of the rest of us, especially via the system of government-(taxpayers)-as-insurance-for-the-macro-economy joined at the hip with continuing permissiveness of fraud. Watch it unfold again now: now whenever everybody's fear of macro-disaster subsides, the next echo of this familiar financing bubble will take off. Since interest rates can't and won't be lowered soon, the answer (proposed by many) to juice up the economy will be sharp financial deregulation. And again, as in this book, the downsizing of things like bank examiner budgets. The regulated businesses will again be touted by regulators as "our clients." And surprise, into many cronies' pockets, vast amounts of cash will flow. Everybody will feel (at least potentially) rich and studly for a little while, then comes the inevitable denouement. (I can't assume from this small sample that the cycles will continue to shorten and steepen. But it concerns me.)
And it feeds back into both major parties' coffers, and some very big political names, keeping the dance going longer, for bigger looting and losses, as this book shows.
This book spends most of its time in a blow-by-blow of the '80s S&L affair in which this author was a prime participant from the government enforcement side. (This is not the entire history: the inquisitive reader can look for more background as to why S&Ls were in the ditch they were, for which the answer SEEMED to some, and some in good faith, to deregulate, to give some slack to the floundering industry, to climb out of its ditch. As usual, bipartisan fingerprints were all over the mess from way back. That larger history isn't quite all here, and isn't the apparent intention of this book, which is much more about the direct trench warfare.)
People with an interest in this subject and its players will find it pretty absorbing (some will find it maddening, either at the author and those he praises, or those he pillories, or maybe some mix thereof). Having shown the most connected '80s crooks dispatched finally, after a titanic struggle finally winding up in climactic hearing scenes in Congress, it picks up speed to tie together a bigger picture historically and economically (from the author's particular viewpoint) in about the last one-fifth of the book. He is quite critical of public choice theory and other conservative concepts that, I think, can be very meaningful and important. But I don't get the sense of a blinkered ideologue.
It was my honor to meet one of this book's heroes, Edwin Gray, later Bank Board Chairman, informally, in the early Reagan era. He infuriated a lot of well-connected people by actually doing his job, even after severe pressure was brought by many powerful and connected people. We can compare this civil servant, ungainly character traits and all, with the party hack later put into the regulators' ranks who, per the author, could not shut up about the fancy tricked-out interior and sound system of arch-crook-banker Charles Keating's jet. The latter sort of naive young apparatchiks were intentionally salted into the ranks of the regulators, by those for whom government is always and everywhere nothing but "the problem." Why not, in that vein, hire cops who are in awe of Pablo Escobar's car collection?
And yet, next to the magnitude of crony cash flows these days, and the bitter rhetoric and broken consensus-reaching process, one can feel nostalgic for Reagan and his ability to work across the political spectrum and often lead in very good and productive directions, too. He was not simply a one-trick pony, as many of the cartoonish supposed imitators are now. But in the shadow of any and every system, some strange critters can grow.
If you are widely read in Taleb's work, there are few surprises here. I pretty avidly snap up whatever he writes, but I had seen such things as his praise of city-states elsewhere. There seems a slight advance in his mapping of fragilities on a wider scale, compared with his prior works.
The title is a great description of the topics in this book. I underwent a quantum leap in my understanding of Torah/Old Testament, its legal ramifications, and foundations of Jewish thought. I have not followed the life or work of author Alan Dershowitz very closely, and I understand in various ways he is controversial. However, his exegesis here of this ancient document in legalistic terms (and of course crediting other thinkers where appropriate, and there is a long line of them), and relating it to our present justice system, is fantastic. I am making a bit of a comparative study of the Abrahamic religions, and have been helped in this also by some works by Karen Armstrong (also available here) on Christianity and Islam. I think it very important that we try to comprehend these faiths (and the history and thinking of their practitioners) on deep levels. The maintenance of lives of millions as free as possible from violence may come to depend on it. I am utterly satisfied with this book as having (brilliantly) furthered these aims.
This is a listenable book with many thought-provoking passages. The world the author foresaw in 2011 has of course not perfectly materialized, but I was startled how often he was right. If the author had turned out perfectly right, I would have to chalk it up to a substantial measure of luck (since nobody knows the future, and nobody who knew the future would be a TV commentator or schlepping books; he would be the richest person on the planet).
The one-star audible reviewer obviously missed the point, as indicated by his short-swing (and wrong for now) view of gold's ascendency (which was already wrong when that review was written). My approach to investing is much like this author's, with a macro focus and pretty long term view. I see this book as more "teaching how to fish" (i.e., think) than simply handing me a serving of fish (a one-time set of"hot tips.") This book satisfies my approach of developing a sound underlying method of portfolio allocation, KNOWING that some of my assumptions (and anyone's, outside of pure luck) will not be proven true. And yes, some of the conclusions I don't agree with -- I would hope. Yes, some asset classes have swung wide of where the author expected, counseling a rethinking of some of the recommendations. But that is easy to do.
A problem with any dated product is getting the right frame of mind to benefit from it. For example, many ground-breaking films don't seem so great on a re-watching, often precisely because they have been so widely imitated and refined upon. So, a need is there to rewind and think of the work in terms of the time it was created. I found this exercise easy here, and was pleased to check the author's prognostications against the (limited) record since then. Indeed, many contrarian ideas voiced by this author are more mainstream now than they were in 2011. (That would seem to be the point of contrarian thinking: seeing things others do not, which later materialize in a wider recognition as true. That is how the investor makes a profit, and isn't that why we are here? Under these sorts of tests, the book comes out strong.
As for the pop-culture and other cultural references, I found them entertaining. Usually I am quite annoyed by such a thing, being for a more academic approach, but these were clever and amusing.
So, as the world continues to surprise us, I continue to seek out opportunities to listen to the thinking of all kinds of observers, and with this one, I'm well satisfied.
This is a clever piece of work. Many acquaintances, and I, have been wrangling about one risk of everyday life versus another, forever, i.e., the stuff of our daily choices, our claims of wisdom or folly. There is a neat little tutorial in simple statistics imbedded in this too, and ways of debunking splashy news stories, but as you follow the quirky little stories here, you might not have noticed it. I have read other books about debunking claims, but this one went down like fizzy candy. In a good way. And, don't get me wrong, there is plenty of adult info, on which many an adult is snared in miscalculation. And I vastly appreciate the way the mundane non-emergencies of life are noticed and modeled here, and not merely the garish, slapstick side so (misleadingly) splashed around the news.
The author is laudatory of Justice Scalia but not stiflingly so. It is a good sampling of Scalia's work, plenty in his own words. He is not one to be ignored, as at times he seems to exert an almost tidal pull on decisions.
A person following the media much on this might already know this. But this is a good broad overview of challenges and prospects Xi Jinping (and China) are facing, and the policies Xi has announced to face these.
There are too many little vignettes here without the kind of detail one would need to extract good case studies of how good decisions were made, or not.
I have liked other publications here by this author, particularly introductions to doing business in various countries (and I liked the USA one the best, though I live here). I would not call them exhaustive, but they are short and affordable, and a nice start. I suspect this was an early work. The English usages are sometimes strange, but that is not the real problem. There is a lot of repetitive, redundant, "you can do it," "but you should know it is risky!" kind of stuff, which goes on and on without actually dissecting specific risks to my satisfaction. Again and again we hear there is massive money in this market but most people lose their money in it, so be careful. "Get good information and advice" type back-slapping does not tell me who or what the right kinds of sources are. I get the implication that most people venturing here are raw meat for the far fewer successful traders, but I do not personally feel confident I could be the latter, based on this.
I like this a lot. As a legal scholar, I find it stimulating to listen in, as great thinkers over several lifetimes with great care unpacked logical conflicts and gray areas in Christian scripture. At points one can sense them writhing and agonizing over what they found. It must have been daunting for such total believers to face these confusing instances of withheld truths and misleading statements by holy figures within the Word of God itself. These thinkers were employing the best tools of their times, with great passion. Out of this process, a more modern view of truth and observable nature as a reference point was painfully born, as we witness step by step. We hear from such luminaries as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Descartes, on and on. The patient listener is well rewarded. The narrator I think had an ideal voice and tone for the material.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.