A provocative consideration for the thoughtful investor.

How to Make Money with Global Macro

A convention-busting reappraisal of global macroeconomics.

Macroeconomics, the study of economic systems involving large regions, is a forbidding field, generally dominated by academically esoteric analysis that’s often inaccessible to lay readers. On the other hand, popular treatments of the subject liberally dispense investment strategy without adequately explaining complex financial contexts. Debut author Gonzalez situates his own work in the space between those two options, furnishing a study that’s intellectually rigorous but ultimately practical. He begins with what he calls an “investing epistemology,” explaining the ways that macroeconomics falls short of being a full-fledged science. The unscientific character of the field, however, doesn’t foreclose the possibility of rational prediction, but according to the author, it requires a panoramic understanding of the history of macro markets. The book’s first section is largely structured around such history, providing an astute investigation of the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, the 1985 Plaza Accord, the conclusion of the Cold War, the American elections of 1994, and a host of other significant events. The book’s second part focuses on other topics, although historical analysis still plays a major, even principal, role. Part of what makes macroeconomics such a challenging discipline is the vast array of pertinent factors that underlie change, including shifting political landscapes, climate change, institutional structures, and global disruptions, such as war. (In fact, one of the highlights of the book is its examination of the macroeconomic repercussions of several modern conflicts.) Although he’s heavily influenced by George Soros, Gonzalez’s perspective is his own, and he intrepidly opposes prevailing wisdom when evidence leads him to new conclusions. For example, he says that commodities and equities aren’t always given a boost by military conflict, and that growth, interest rates, and inflation sometimes move along contradictory currents. Sometimes, the author delivers his iconoclasm with real verve: “However, in financial macro the laws of supply and demand do not hold. Pardon me, you might say. Yes, they do not hold.” This is a well-researched study, brimming with helpfully illustrative graphs. Although the author doesn’t appear to be very interested in providing immediately actionable investment advice, his book is still a highly valuable guide.

A provocative consideration for the thoughtful investor.

Pub Date: July 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5175-7619-6

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

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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

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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

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