In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington Paperback – 31 Oct 2004
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"As Secretary of the Treasury, Bob Rubin ranked with the best. This drama-packed account of his years on the job should be read by all who are interested in what happens when politics and economics intersect."
and of his tenure as the presidential adviser and Treasury Secretary. But it is also a very personal book filled with tales and insights about his relationships with such key players as Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and President Bill Clinton. This is destined to be one of the most important books, as well as one of the most enjoyable and enlightening, published in our time."
-Walter Isaacson "Bob Rubin takes us behind the closed doors and into the nerve center of Wall Street, the White House and the Treasury Department during a historic time in the global economy. It's a fascinating and highly instructive tale told by a man who is uniquely qualified to guide us through these monumental political and economic challenges."
-Tom Brokaw "Robert Rubin served with distinction as Secretary of Treasury during a period of turbulence in international financial markets. He has now written an engrossing and thoughtful book about his experiences. Even those who do not agree with some of his conclusions, will find this important reading."
"When historians look back on the 1990s, they will almost certainly ask how the greatest economic expansion in American history happened. Robert Rubin's forthright and fascinating memoir will be the place to begin. With the meticulousness of a scholar and an appealing lack of vanity, Rubin has written the kind of book that important figures in history should write but seldom do."
From the Inside Flap
Robert Rubin was sworn in as the seventieth U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in January 1995 in a brisk ceremony attended only by his wife and a few colleagues. As soon as the ceremony was over, he began an emergency meeting with President Bill Clinton on the financial crisis in Mexico. This was not only a harbinger of things to come during what would prove to be a rocky period in the global economy; it also captured the essence of Rubin himself--short on formality, quick to get into the nitty-gritty.
From his early years in the storied arbitrage department at Goldman Sachs to his current position as chairman of the executive committee of Citigroup, Robert Rubin has been a major figure at the center of the American financial system. He was a key player in the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. With In an Uncertain World, Rubin offers a shrewd, keen analysis of some of the most important events in recent American history and presents a clear, consistent approach to thinking about markets and dealing with the new risks of the global economy.
Rubin's fundamental philosophy is that nothing is provably certain. Probabilistic thinking has guided his career in both business and government. We see that discipline at work in meetings with President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Chinese premier Zhu Rongji, Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers, Newt Gingrich, Sanford Weill, and the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. We see Rubin apply it time and again while facing financial crises in Asia, Russia, and Brazil; the federal government shutdown; the rise and fall of the stock market; the challenges of the post-September 11 world; the ongoing struggle over fiscal policy; and many other momentouseconomic and political events.
With a compelling and candid voice and a sharp eye for detail, Rubin portrays the daily life of the White House-confronting matters both mighty and mundane--as astutely as he examines the challenges that lie ahead for the nation. Part political memoir, part prescriptive economic analysis, and part personal look at business problems, In an Uncertain World is a deep examination of Washington and Wall Street by a figure who for three decades has been at the center of both worlds.
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A good read for aspiring politicians, consultants and amateur / professional economists on the hand in glove nature of current affairs and applied economics.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
- On central bank independence: "As the longest-serving Federal Reserve chairman in history, William McChesney Martin, famously said, the Fed chairman is the fellow who takes the punch bowl away just when the party is getting going. That's why the chairman should have a fixed term, which he does, rather than serving at the pleasure of the President. This helps insulate him from political pressure."
- On democratic accountability and the mastery with which Alan Greenspan testified before Congress: "That's an interesting observation you make, Senator, about the earth being flat," Alan would say. "If I might, let me rephrase the question." Alan would then ask himself a completely different question and answer it with such complexity and finely calibrated nuance that the questioner faced a choice between nodding intelligently and acknowledging his own confusion. Alan would then ask the House member or senator, "Does that respond to your question?" And the interrogator would invariably say, "Yes, it does."
- On exchange rate policy: "My substantive view was that economic fundamentals determine exchange rate levels over time, and that we should focus our attention on strengthening U.S. economic policy and performance, not on influencing the level of the currency (...) I was skeptical about the efficacy of currency 'interventions' per se--that is, of governments trying to influence the exchange rate of a currency by buying and selling large quantities in the open market. My experience with foreign exchange markets at Goldman Sachs led me to believe that trading flows were simply too vast for such interventions to have more than a momentary effect, except in very unusual circumstances."
- On using calculated ambiguity when commenting on market trends: "For example, my saying 'A strong dollar is in our national interest, and we have a strong dollar for some time now' created great excitement at a press briefing, as it was construed to mean that we wouldn't mind seeing the dollar remain strong but soften somewhat."
- On financial innovation and systemic risk: "Larry Summers characterized my concerns about derivatives as a preference for playing tennis with wooden rackets--as opposed to the more powerful graphite and titanium ones used today. Perhaps, but I would still reduce the leverage allowed on derivatives substantially."
Mr. Rubin was vital in the formation of Clintonomics--a set of policies that stressed the importance of deficit reduction. Although politically vilified for "raising taxes," Mr. Rubin's platform of deficit reduction was associated with remarkable productivity and economic growth in the 1990's. Mr. Rubin's account is especially timely and thought provoking considering the recent deficits incurred by the U.S. government, the historically low interest rates that are nevertheless present in America, and the 12 billion dollar bet on foreigns currencies recently placed by Berkshire Hathaway.
As someone who has visited and invested (with very mixed results!) in developing countries, I was also interested in Mr. Rubin's accounts of how and why he, Clinton, and others at institutions like the IMF created multi-billion dollar rescue loans to these nations. The conflicts of interest between investors, the borrowers, and the loaners is fascinating to contemplate. It is also instructive to consider why some rescue packages (designed for Indonesia) failed while others (designed for Mexico) succeeded. While recounting these stories Mr. Rubin does an admirable job explaining why lowering tarrifs and expanding global trade with emerging markets is a win-win situation for all parties involved.
For an even better explanation of the underlying principles of international finance read "Economics in One Easy Lesson" by Hazlett. It sounds like a children's book, but the clarity of explanation of complex ideas in this book is amazing.