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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The argument for rational fatalism, 16 May 2007
This review is from: Risk (Paperback)
I've just finished reading "Risk" by John Adams and "Fooled by Randomness" by Nicholas Taleb. They make good companions. Both are illuminating and refreshingly entertaining. And both have the same main target: proponents of the view that risk is an objective phenomenon that can be measured and managed.

"Risk" Adams contends is a word that refers to a future that exists only in the imagination. It is inescapably subjective. Taleb, who is a New York trader, is especially [...] those who are fooled by randomness - deluded souls who believe that luck can be managed, that future prices can be divined by a study of past prices - and that such divinations will make them rich. The iconic case, with which Taleb has great sport, is the collapse of Long Term Capital Management. Two directors of LTCM, Merton and Scholes, received Nobel prizes for their development of the luck management methods that produced the collapse.

Adams, writing before the fall of LTCM, puts his finger on its cause. Merton and Scholes were not detached scientists observing something that could be objectively measured, they were players in the game, influencing, and being influenced by, all the other players.

Adams' most interesting, and sadly neglected, case study of the interactive nature of risk management is his demolition of the myth of the efficacy of seat belt legislation. Nowhere in the world, he shows, have seat belt laws saved lives. Everywhere they have resulted in a transfer of the burden of risk from those best-protected in cars to the most vulnerable outside cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

Five stars to both Adams and Taleb!

PS Your previous reviewer, Leitch, is wrong on his two "fundamental" points.
1. His belief that the risk associated with the rise and fall of shares is predictable. If he is not persuaded by Adams and Taleb, he might try When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Lowenstein, or Googling "Brian Hunter Amaranth" for examples of the disasters experienced by those who shared his belief in the predictability of share prices and natural gas prices.
2. His conclusion that Adams argues that motorists have a fixed "favourite level of risk". One of Adams' most useful insights is that propensity to take risk varies with the perceived rewards of risk taking.
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