Having Fun Out Here on Panic Beach

Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity
Michael Lewis (ed.)

When is a story not a story? And when should an author, like children of yore, be seen and not heard? And when is modern insanity not terribly different from historical insanity?

I might answer those questions and I might not because I’m not entirely certain what to think about this book, which I selected to distract myself from this year’s Continue reading


Too Much Money in Too Few Places

Other People’s Money: The Real Business of Finance
John Kay

opm_kay“I’m just a banker, doing God’s work.”
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs (11/2009)

“The culture of anonymous trading is divorced from economic context, devalues or eliminates personal relationships and fosters the self-aggrandising self.” (p. 269)
John Kay, 2015

American economists don’t make statements like the second  quote above. Doing so could be hazardous to their career health. Thankfully Dr. Kay is British and so is Continue reading

History Never Repeats

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff

this_timeLong ago I took a class in economic history. It was taught in the history department, by visiting faculty not terribly well versed in economics.

Let me qualify that last  bit. Not terribly well versed in the quantitative, equation-driven neo-classical post-Samuleson economics most often taught in the Econ Continue reading

Give the Devil His Due

All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis
Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera

Devils_HereCatholic schools do a good job of making sure you know about Catholic heroes. Like Junipero Sera. Perhaps you’ve heard of the good friar? Founder of California’s missions?

Whether you have or haven’t is irrelevant. I bring it up only because the flat accents of NPR‘s on-air staff led me to believe that there was a financial journalist I hadn’t heard Continue reading

Capital, It Fails Us Now

A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent into Depression
Richard A. Posner

Posner_coverJudge. The word suggests a lot of things. A sense of right and wrong. Belief in  truth as a non-relative concept. A willingness to face facts. And all those great synonyms: probity, rectitude, morality, virtue, honesty and on and on. There’s even a book in the Bible entitled Judges just in case you missed their importance. (I promise it’s there, right between Joshua and Ruth.)

Not all judges are up to that standard. Luckily Continue reading

To Woof or Not to Woof

The Watchdog that Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis
and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism
Dean Starkman

Been missing too long and while there are plenty of good reasons for that they’re also all excuses. So, no hairshirts. Let’s just get back to it.


Dean Stockman is a  veteran journalist turned j-school professor. This work embodies all the contradictions contained in that last sentence.

A strong case can be made that some professions actually operate on a craft model. Simply put, that means you can’t be ‘taught’ how to do it, you just have to learn how by trial and error with the guidance of more experienced hands. It’s a guild-like model that still holds true for jobs like master cabinetmaker and, I’d argue journalist. (Or, for that matter, direct marketer.)

I say that because at the end of the day journalism is about storytelling and you Continue reading

The Financial Crisis Exhibit at the Human Zoo

Boomerang: Travels in the New World
Michael Lewis

boomerang_lewisWhat’s in a name? Or,  for that matter, a title?

Evidently not a whole lot judging from the present volume. Readers may recognize Mr Lewis’ name from my post earlier this year. That book looked at the financial crisis from the perspective of a few, clear-eyed individuals who saw it coming.

Well,  an enterprising agent and/or editor saw an opportunity in the bits of that book that Continue reading

In the Counting House

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It
Scott Patterson

My questionable contribution to repairing the damage done by the financial crisis is to read almost all I can on the subject, but only when I find the book in the library. Not great for authors and publishers but it works for me.

Today’s tome tells the tale of Wall Street‘s most recent breed of ubermenschen–math nerds turned super traders by dint of their own brain wiring and the availability of cheap, fast computers. These Continue reading