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Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War
Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War
by Peter H. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Many parts of the book are underlined, very unprofessional, 10 Jun. 2014
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Although the status of book mentioned "good", I received a copy that was marked frequently during the first chapters. Many sentences were underlined in a clumsy way the book has several dog ears. Such a book should never be called in good condition!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2014 2:51 PM BST


Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.45

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for a lot of thought..., 16 Feb. 2014
This book is the third (and hence last) part of Mr Taleb's trilogy, of which the world famous The Black Swan is the second.

His thesis is that all in the world is either fragile, robust or antifragile. Volatility harms fragile products/ people/.... (e.g. glass), while robustness is neutral to volatily. But antifragility thrives on risk. Although this may sound contra-intuitive, the author gives loads of examples in many domains. Typically, entrepreneurs are by definition fond of "opportunities" (a term preferred to "problems"). Bureaucrats and managers on the other hand are not only risk adverse, they have no skin in the game. For the latter, there is no incentive to make the right decisions and their bonuses are only focused on the short term.

Also in the field of biology, many examples of antifragility are alive. Why use medicins (sleeping pills, antibiotics,...) which are expensive and make the body weak and fragile? Or muscles that are trained in the gym are made stronger by challenging them a little. "What does not kill you, makes you stronger", indeed.

Mr. Taleb is skeptical when it comes to human hubris. Urbanisation a la Le Corbusier has created alienation and unsafe cities, big states have made the political system unstable and fragile (EU, China, USA) while smaller countries are more robust, even antifragile (Switzerland, Hong Kong,...). A lot of theories in social sciences have been built from trial-and-error and do not come out of the blue.

From a philosophical point of view, the author does not agree with Socrates that what one does not know is senseless. He rather believes in the Nietzschean Dionysus, the positive nihilism that favours creative destruction.

The best book I have read in the last years!


The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World
The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World
Price: £6.02

5.0 out of 5 stars All you want to know about modern energy..., 9 Nov. 2013
The sequel of "The Prize", which focuses on the history of oil. The author deals in "The Quest" with the short period about oil that was left uncovered in the "The Prize", starting from the second Gulf War (invasion of Kuwait). In the meanwhile, oil has further dominated world politics: Chavez, Saddam Hussein, Nigeria and Iran. Next to that, the oil industry got involved in several mergers & acquisitions: Conocco Phillips, BP Amoco, Exxon Mobil and Total Elf to name a few.

Contrary to Fukuyama's illusion, China and USA have been working further on their goal to be energy independent. The latter seems to be harder than expected, although coal and nuclear energy benefit China, shale gas and shale oil favor USA, energy conservation both. There is still a long way to go, but the growing non-OPEC share leaves opportunities for geopolitical diversification.

What about Japan and Europe? Notwithstanding the Fukushima tragedy, the country has little more options than nuclear energy (taking into account a 80% import dependency on Middle Eastern oil). The same goes for Europe. It is OK to think green, but eliminating nuclear energy leaves no European option than to heavily rely on Arab oil. What if the US decides to retreat from that area? Europe lacks both the political courage and military means to protect its energy sources.

Obviously, Yergin also spends quite some time on green energy and energy conservation. Solar cells, electric cars, biofuel,... Whether or not humans caused the climate change, it is never wrong to use energy more efficiently and to diversify its energy sources. To save the planet and also to be more self-dependent from a geopolitical point of view. Any European politician could learn from this double lesson.


Currency Wars (Portfolio)
Currency Wars (Portfolio)
by James Rickards
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beware for a new type of war, 23 Jun. 2013
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Typically we expect wars to be fought on the battle field, involving soldiers, guns and tanks. Mr. James Rickards shows that the next war may be fought in the dealing rooms and the central bank offices. His book is a warning towards the political and security agencies not only to focus on conventional arms.

Currency wars? Nil novo sub sole. The latest financial crisis triggered already the third version in less than a hundred years. The set up of central banks as a lender of last resort (but at the expense of Joe Sixpack's savings) and the end of the gold standard created chaos in the financial system.

After Keynes gave politicians an excuse to misinterpret his theory and to let go budget discipline, central banks (Bernanke, Draghi, etc.) created monetary disorder by printing money without any backing. Keeping in mind how difficult it is to get the genie back in the bottle regarding public spending, the author is as pessimistic that monetary policy will ever be redirected for the better. His concluding piece of advice: put your money in hard assets like gold and land! At least decent food for thought...


Europe: The Shattering of Illusions
Europe: The Shattering of Illusions
by Vaclav Klaus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear insight in the flaws of the European Union..., 2 Jun. 2013
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As president of the Czech Republic, Mr Vaclav Klaus is well positioned to opinion on the current European Union. Unlike his peers, he dares to speak up against the lack of democracy within the EU structure (non-elected European Commissioners, denial of the popular vote during referenda in France, Netherlands, Ireland,...) and the more federal structure of the EU. Currently, Europe is drifting away from the original European Economic Community, which was set up to promote free trade and organised as a confederation of indepedent nation states. By now, flag plus anthem and above all, a true constitution (excluding any reference to its Christian heritage) make it truly look like a supranational organisation eagerly wanting to be a full-blown state. The recent euro crisis shows that moving forward, it is better to revitalize the current member states of the EU rather than to promote a superstate, the latter not able to cope with the different national preferences (socially, politically, economically) and offering little or no economies of scale. A well received warning from Mr Klaus to prevent a victory of transnational progressivism over the democratic nation state.


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