There’s much for the alarmist here but food for thought for the calm investor, too.

THE ROAD TO RUIN

THE GLOBAL ELITES' SECRET PLAN FOR THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS

Can owning a Chagall keep the wolf from the door? In a time of a predatory capitalism that is beginning to feed on itself, that and a knowledge of complexity theory might get you more than a cup of coffee.

Granted, financial consultant Rickards (The New Case for Gold, 2016, etc.) has been crying Ragnarök for a long time. Even so, the subtitle of this latest may be a touch more breathless than the contents really call for. Never mind that the author does indeed urge on his readers the thesis that the elite, whoever they may be—George Soros, to be sure, but Christopher Dodd?—have three things on their agenda: “world money, world taxation, and world order.” The conspiracy theory stuff never goes away, but when Rickards’ text settles down into its nerdier tropes, it gets interesting, if a little daunting. The author argues that the complex global financial system is now largely immune to analysis by the static tools of classical economics; “complex systems,” he rightly remarks, “behave in a completely different manner from equilibrium systems.” Number crunching begins to look like a secondary tool to the wind-reading skills of psychological forecasting: who’s going to freak out first, and when? Examining such things as Bayesian probability (the “theorem is messy, but it’s still better than nothing”), scaling metrics, and density functions, Rickards makes a good case to get smarter to how people actually think, which is seldom logical and seldom smart. He concludes, in the more sober and less conspiracy-minded portion of this double-edged book, with a view of what a well-structured, wealth-preserving portfolio might look like in a time when wealth creation is ebbing but wealth extraction—from your pocket, that is—is rising. Among its components are bonds and land, of course, but also, not surprisingly, “physical gold and silver…(coins and bars, no numismatics)” and, more surprisingly, museum-quality fine art.

There’s much for the alarmist here but food for thought for the calm investor, too.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59184-808-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more