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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Misleading Title?, 16 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Who Runs Britian?....and Who's To Blame for The Economic Mess We're In (Paperback)
I bought this book on the strength of its title and the press reviews I had seen which implied it would provide a clear and systematic explanation of the economic mess we're in, and of what this means for government. Yet what I found instead were a collection of essays about different aspects of the financial system - such as private equity, pension funds, the retail sector (notably M&S), the Post Office, and the 'cash for honours' debacle, with only one chapter really devoted to the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market (and that was written before the collapse of Lehman brothers and all the ramifications that had). Chapters 3 and 4 in particular seemed to be an extended biography of Sir Philip Green which I found so 'off-topic' that it almost made me give up reading the rest of the book. And although Robert Peston did explain all these different facets of the modern financial system in an engaging way, I often did not find it clear whether he was defending the system or attacking it. If the latter, it was not clear what he believes should have been done, or by whom, to have made things turn out better. One example of his muddled analysis struck me in particular. On the cash for honours issue, he concludes: "The leader of a party created to give voice to the neediest and most oppressed was attempting to confer political power on the wealthy for no other conspicuous reason than that they had the financial means to keep him in power." Put this way, the implication is that he should have abandoned the neediest and oppressed by not seeking donations from the rich to keep his party in power. But surely the real argument is not that Labour sought funding for its programme, but that it appeared to be rewarding donors with honours, just as (he claims) the Tories did. The fault was not having a better system for equalising funding between different parties.

I also found that this book was not quite the 'idiot's guide' I had expected from the reviews. Maybe the type of person who would read a book like this might be expected to know already what a hedge fund is, but I was left little the wiser. Fortunately, I could follow the broad thrust of what he was saying, and a lot of it was very interesting even though I was left feeling that I did not really understand how all these little pieces of the financial jigsaw related to each other, nor to the whole picture. All-in-all a bit of a curate's egg, but worth the effort.
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