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TOVH "tovh" (UK)

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GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
by Diane Coyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable journey into what GDP is and isn't, 19 April 2014
Even for those trained in economics who think they know all about GDP, this is a short and sweet book which tackles the issues around GDP - what it is and isn't, why it's a useful measure and why it might not be. Accessible to non-economists. Plenty of food for thought. Worth a read.

The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing)
The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing)
Price: £14.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read; astute insights, 19 April 2014
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Definitely a worthwhile read with many insights and useful observations. Easy to read and very clear. Something here for professional and amateur investors alike. Should make one reappraise their own investment philosophy by giving thought to some of the principles highlighted. Only slight criticism would be that he labours the point on occasion.

The book is all about HM's investment philosophy. Key tenets include: respecting the efficiency of markets, focusing on markets that may be less efficient (and away from macro forecasting or large cap stocks, for example), importance of 'value' investing (margin of safety), recognising risk, risk control, psychology of markets, role of chance...Plenty of astute judgements along the way.

Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy
Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy
by Raghuram G. Rajan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.56

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but expected more, 24 Dec. 2010
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Given Rajan's pre-eminence and the stellar reviews, I must admit I expected a bit more. A good book, but breaks little new ground.

First, the good points. The writing is clear and accessible to non-economists. It starts and ends particularly well. Unlike a lot of commentary, the book is not a tirade against bankers, politicians or regulators and highlights the nuances of the debate around certain issues. For example, limiting financial innovation or banning prop trading will not prevent future crises. The most original idea (or fault line) is the link between inequality and the US credit binge - politicians motivated a credit boom to compensate lower income earners for a lack of opportunity. The author highlights clearly how well-intentioned government intervention to promote housing for low earners contributed significantly to the subprime boom/bust. This is probably the book's greatest contribution. The disparity in educational opportunities and the vicious cycle of poverty are points well made. That a weak US social safety net means recessions are intolerable and justify aggressive policy activism is also an interesting angle. The role of individuals following incentives created by the system (rather than just motivated by pure greed) is also well highlighted. The analysis and discussion of China is very good.

The book, however, adds little to the global imbalances debate, nor adds much in terms of ideas for fixing financial regulation (I agree with another reviewer - bit of a laundry list here). The analysis of Germany and Japan seems glib and incomplete (e.g. what about demographics?). At times it seems that Rajan wants policy intervention so that every country practically runs a balanced current account - is that necessarily good economics? Moreover, he repeatedly criticises government intervention while recommending it at other times (e.g. to reduce trade imbalances, regulate finance) with little discussion of what makes for effective rather than counterproductive intervention.

Rajan appears to lay most blame for the recent crisis at the feet of government intervention and the moral hazard it created. His framework emphasises rationality given incentive structures. Little attention is paid to the ideas of behavioural economists such as Robert Shiller and the idea that people simply got it wrong because of bubble mentality, myopia, herd behaviour and the like. Could it be that the CEOs/board members/stock and bond holders of Lehman, Bear, AIG, WaMu, Northern Rock etc. just didn't see a one in 80-year crash coming? They had after all had it so good for so long. Could it be that the majority of players deluded themselves into thinking house prices at the national level would always rise (a view condoned by Greenspan)? Are bankers and investors particularly prone to myopia (with devastating effect)? Or was it, as Rajan implies, that they saw something like this as a possibility but acted in expectation of a bailout? Really? After all, do the stockholders or (most) bondholders of those particular firms really feel like they were bailed out? The moral hazard argument is relevant but seems incomplete. Robert Shiller and Woody Brock (SEDinc) offer profound alternative views.

Money (The Art of Living)
Money (The Art of Living)
by Eric Lonergan
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly original and thought provoking, 2 Dec. 2009
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Like it or not, money and finance dominate much of our lives. We work for it, we borrow it, we lend it, we envy it. And yet despite the importance of money, Lonergan's fascinating and highly original book illustrates how we actually understand very little about money and our relationship with it.

What is money and where does it come from? What uses does finance really serve? How does it affect us? Why is it that finance can be so destabilising? How could central bankers have dealt more effectively with the recent financial crisis?

The author tackles each of these issues and more in a profoundly thoughtful way, all in little more than 130 pages of vivid and entertaining prose. This is by no means a conventional economist's treatment of the subject. In fact, the book highlights many inadequacies of traditional economics. The author draws on a wide array of disciplines - economics, philosophy, psychology, anthropology and others - to examine our relationship with money. What becomes clear is that our views towards money and finance are often little more than behavioural biases - some of which can be very harmful.

The book is divided into 4 sections, each of which focuses on the author's view of the most important properties of money: interdependence, control of the future, measurement and allure. It is a lively yet challenging read and requires no knowledge of economics...although it will certainly make economists think again about what they really know about money!

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