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A look inside what one investing whiz kid called a Pandora’s box—one that, Popper makes clear, won’t soon be closed.

A sidelong though revealing look at the odd “laddish” subculture that has fueled private Wall Street trading for the last few years.

Whereas Ben Mezrich’s The Antisocial Network and Spencer Jakab’s The Revolution That Wasn’t were straightforward takes on the GameStop meltdown, former New York Times finance and technology reporter Popper, author of Digital Gold, is more interested in some of the subthemes behind the debacle. Though he pays attention to the bigger picture, he is especially good in his portraits of the little actors whose interactions turned disastrous—and even dangerous. At the center of the narrative is WallStreetBets, an online forum that “fed into a whole universe of lonely, often mistrustful young men.” The community arose at a time when many young men decided that they were just aggrieved enough to become vocal Trump supporters, some diving headlong into QAnon and 4chan, most venting at some point or another about the unfair economic cards they’d been handed after the recession of 2008. In the process, Popper writes, WallStreetBets and its founders remade the small-investment landscape: Whereas $21 billion came onto the table through amateur traders in 2019, four years later, that figure was $118 billion. Much of the side-bet activity centered on cryptocurrency. However, as a survey conducted by Charles Schwab revealed, those young investors “started with the goal of notching short-term wins but were learning from their mistakes and focusing more on long-term investing,” democratizing the market with fresh blood and money. Popper’s account is densely detailed on both the financial and technical fronts—aspiring investors will learn some valuable information—but the author never loses focus on the people involved, however disaffected and conflicted.

A look inside what one investing whiz kid called a Pandora’s box—one that, Popper makes clear, won’t soon be closed.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780063205864

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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

“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Action-packed tale of the building of the New England Patriots over the course of seven decades.

Prolific writer Benedict has long blended two interests—sports and business—and the Patriots are emblematic of both. Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the team built a strategic home field between that city and Providence. When original owner Billy Sullivan sold the flailing team in 1988, it was $126 million in the hole, a condition so dire that “Sullivan had to beg the NFL to release emergency funds so he could pay his players.” Victor Kiam, the razor magnate, bought the long since renamed New England Patriots, but rival Robert Kraft bought first the parking lots and then the stadium—and “it rankled Kiam that he bore all the risk as the owner of the team but virtually all of the revenue that the team generated went to Kraft.” Check and mate. Kraft finally took over the team in 1994. Kraft inherited coach Bill Parcells, who in turn brought in star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “the Patriots’ most prized player.” However, as the book’s nimbly constructed opening recounts, in 2001, Bledsoe got smeared in a hit “so violent that players along the Patriots sideline compared the sound of the collision to a car crash.” After that, it was backup Tom Brady’s team. Gridiron nerds will debate whether Brady is the greatest QB and Bill Belichick the greatest coach the game has ever known, but certainly they’ve had their share of controversy. The infamous “Deflategate” incident of 2015 takes up plenty of space in the late pages of the narrative, and depending on how you read between the lines, Brady was either an accomplice or an unwitting beneficiary. Still, as the author writes, by that point Brady “had started in 223 straight regular-season games,” an enviable record on a team that itself has racked up impressive stats.

Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-10-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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