Superhubs is riveting. I simply couldn't put it down. Unlike most non-fiction this is written eloquently and in an entertaining way. It melds fascinating anecdotes about the global elite with insightful commentary on how they pull the levers that impact our daily lives. But are they being pulled for our benefit or theirs? I really think Sandra Navidi is on to something with her espousal of network theory in Superbubs. So much of the financial crisis and beyond, at the end of the day comes down to the decisions and influence of a few key human beings interacting in places of power like Davos. Much has been written about the technical aspects of our financial system and the crisis but I wonder now whether we are missing some key observations about the impact of human nature. Sandra Navidi shines a light onto this fascinating and under-researched topic. Anyone wanted to understand how the world works today or how we may be facing another crisis soon should read this book.
If you want to know what it's like being a fly on the wall in Davos at the World Economic Forum and similar events, how denizens of high-altitude gatherings operate, this is an interesting book. Global leaders at the pinnacle of society spend much of their energy trading information, ideas, social capital, loyalty in their networks, and constantly trying to expand them, flittering from Davos to central bank meetings to charity boards and galas and the Hamptons. The definitive academic sociological and quantitative study of these networks, their evolution and influence hasn't been written, but this is a highly entertaining and readable portrait.
"SUPERHUBS: How the Financial Elite & Their Networks Rule Our World", which was written by Sandra Navidi, is an absolutely superb book! It was my good fortune to become acquainted with Ms. Navidi and her outstanding book on the global financial world and its elite players by seeing her as a guest on C-Span’s Q & A with Brian Lamb.
While the majority of books written about the global financial world and its key players are written in a somewhat dry, academic format, this book takes the reader on a journey through the world of the ultra-rich players in more of a narrative style by citing her personal experiences with these players. In terms of interest, I had a difficult time putting this book down; I typically spent two to three hours each day reading it until completion. Furthermore, "SUPERHUBS" is so thought provoking, I fully intend to continue to study Ms. Davidi’s outstanding book in the future.
The most vital reason for a person to read "SUPERHUBS" is to gain a deep insight into the world of immense wealth and power that super rich financial leaders possess, and to more clearly comprehend how their social networks influence the world’s political climate, lawmakers’ decision-making, and the overall economic environment of the world in which we live.
While I could delve into additional details regarding each chapter, I choose not to do so in this review; I can only highly encourage everyone to read this book in order to become a better-informed voter and citizen. As a longtime reader of politics and economics, I have never encountered a book that is filled with such a high degree of vital information; is written in such an elegant, to the point style; yet is accessible in better understanding the world of global finance and its elite players.
Sandra Navidi has accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish when, like her, I started my career by moving to New York to work for Deloitte so I could go behind the scenes and see how Wall Street really works. This, and my subsequent assignment to Saudi Arabia, were enlightening experiences and reveal the extent to which access to capital (and energy) are controlled by a relatively small number of so called Masters of the Universe through “human networks” where connections count. Not only has she been able to pull back the curtain to reveal how markets can be distorted by the actions of a few based upon motivations less altruistic than many of us operating in the trenches might like to believe, she has described this world in her excellent book that is also written in an engaging style.
Clearly, there is a human element involved that is often overlooked by our focus on systems and systemic risks when searching for capital misallocations and distortions that can affect the health and effectiveness of financial markets, but what’s mssing is a discussion of how such capital market distortions can lead to imbalances in global capital flows and the connection between imbalances in global capital flows and imbalances in global trade.
As such, I wish I could have connected her with Michael Pettis before she completed her book so she might better understand / explain how the potential distortions in capital markets that she describes can affect trade flows (and vice versa, e.g., through energy cartels). As Michael Pettis points out, a country’s capital account must balance with its current (“trade”) account over time absent central bank interventions, so much of the angst over trade imbalances might be better understood and corrected by taking a closer look at distortions in global capital markets.
Arguably, distortions of this type and the linkages between them may also be attributable to the human networks she has described, but in that case there is a different cast of characters that she hasn’t fully fleshed out. For example, the Chinese Communist Party is perhaps the largest and most powerful human network in the world, and they have often used the power of this network to intentionally, rather than unintentionally, distort capital markets, with profound implications for trade balances as well. This has allowed the CCP to rapidly propel the Chinese economy forward through a combination of export-oriented and investment led growth—yet, somehow with surplus capital to spare. In fact, China has simultaneously become the world’s largest creditor. But, even as trade tensions with China have been escalating, it seems that less and less attention is being paid to the fact that China's currency and capital markets remain tightly controlled by the CCP along with China’s banking system. Are the connections between these capital market distortions and resulting imbalances in global capital flows and trade that difficult to see?
Since the CCP also controls China’s legal system and public media, I can understand why this Super Superhub remains shrouded in mystery, but perhaps a sequel to Sandra Navidi’s book is in order. I would give that book the extra star (a red one) that I have held back in my review of this one.