This was a pleasantly surprisingly good read. Will Durant does a very good job of putting together quotes and excerpts of various big names so that th...moreThis was a pleasantly surprisingly good read. Will Durant does a very good job of putting together quotes and excerpts of various big names so that the lay-reader can appreciate what it was that these philosophers were trying to say, without using an overabundance of technical language. It has inspired me to read more widely in philosophy, so as a gateway book, I'd say it does a great job.(less)
This is a good read. Manias, Panics, and Crashes will drop knowledge on you like a slab of cold lead falling on your head. It is packed to the burstin...moreThis is a good read. Manias, Panics, and Crashes will drop knowledge on you like a slab of cold lead falling on your head. It is packed to the bursting point with historical examples of not only the specifics of the crises, but also the policy responses used to try to mollify them. I feel like if I could completely synthesize everything Kindleberger puts in to this book and learn to apply it in a dynamic way, then I'd never need to worry about the financial weather again.(less)
I was very fortunate to have received this book for free as a part of Goodreads' First Reads give-away. I'm pleased that it still seems to be on the m...moreI was very fortunate to have received this book for free as a part of Goodreads' First Reads give-away. I'm pleased that it still seems to be on the marketing circuit so that I might hold up my end of the bargain, though it may color my review. You have been warned.
On the whole, Johnson has weaved together a pretty good narrative about the spaces and environments that have proved conducive to creativity and cultural, social, and technological growth. He views these environments through a very long lens and motivates for individuals and institutions, like governments and corporations, to adopt more open, liquid networks to spur innovation.
His ideas are good and seem grounded in pragmatic reality. I can't find much fault in them.
I can't speak much about the science that he discusses, particularly the details about Darwin and his journeys, but I would have liked a bit more exposition about how culture benefits from liquid networks and exaptation. 90% of the metaphors revolve around science and engineering, and given that Johnson takes pains to emphasize that these phenomena aren't limited to the sciences, there is a relative dearth of good examples from the realms of art and social sciences. I might also caution that, at times, I felt that Johnson romanticized things a bit beyond actual facts. It caused me only a slight itchiness.
In sum, a good pop-science book, a good management book and a good conversation starter. I'd recommend.(less)
I can tell by reading this book that it was lovingly researched, but ultimately I was disappointed. Kostova recounts the history of Europe in great de...moreI can tell by reading this book that it was lovingly researched, but ultimately I was disappointed. Kostova recounts the history of Europe in great detail and in the process writes a new version of the Dracula tale. Sadly, I felt that this was actually history book with a narrative tacked on, seemingly almost as an afterthought. Kostova gives beautifully detailed descriptions of architecture and places, but I hardly cared at all about the characters or the dark mystery that they try to solve. The pacing was terribly, with all the suspense and action crammed in the last 100 pages (of an 800 page book), the rest serving mainly as education so that you can understand what's going on. If you're a die-hard vampire fan or an aspiring historian (details of the very difficult work historians do are peppered liberally throughout), you may enjoy. Otherwise, you'd be just as well off reading a couple of Wikipedia articles about Europe and vampires.(less)
"Breathtaking" is the best word I have that does justice to the scale and scope of what author Liaquat Ahamed has done with this book. I've not read a...more"Breathtaking" is the best word I have that does justice to the scale and scope of what author Liaquat Ahamed has done with this book. I've not read a more thorough treatment of the topic or the times; however, I believe this book stacks up well against any non-fiction, history or economics book written. I would strongly recommend to anyone with an interest in economics and history.
p139 In March 1922, he wrote to Strong in that elliptical way of his, “Only lately have the countries of the world started to clear up after the war, two years having been wasted in building castles in the air and pulling them down again. Such is the way of democracies it seems, though a ‘few aristocrats’ in all countries realized from the start what must be the inevitable result of hastily conceived remedies for such serious ills.” He obviously thought that the “few aristocrats” were bankers like himself.
p146 Britain was therefore the only major country that truly faced the choice between devaluation and deflation. To a modern observer, less wedded to the principle that currency rates are sacrosanct, some measure of devaluation would have made sense. After all, Britain was finding it harder to compete in the postwar world economy and, having liquidated vast amounts of its holdings abroad, could only draw upon a much reduced foreign income to cushion the blow. Its exchange rate should have been allowed to fall as a means of making its goods cheaper on world markets. However, Norman and his generation lived in a different mental world. They saw devaluation not as an adjustment to a new reality but as something more, a symptom of financial indiscipline that might precipitate a collective loss of confidence in all currencies. When people talked of the City of London as banker to the world, this was no mere figure of speech—the City operated literally like a gigantic bank, taking deposits from one part of the world and lending to another. While gold was the international currency par excellence, the pound sterling was viewed as its closest substitute, and most trading nations—the United States, Russia, Japan, India, Argentina—even kept part of their cash reserves in sterling deposits in London. The pound had a special status in the gold standard constellation and its devaluation would have rocked the financial world.
pp150-151 And he began making his fortune as a currency speculator. In 1919, it was a novel way of making money. Before 1914, currencies had been fixed, and opportunities to profit from the instability of exchange rates had been almost nonexistent. In the aftermath of the war, as exchange rates of the major currencies lurched up and down, it became possible to make large returns—and also lose equally large amounts—by betting on the direction of such moves. In the latter half of 1919, convinced that the inflationary consequences of the war would undermine the currencies of the main belligerents, Keynes went short on the French franc, the German Reichsmark, and the Italian lira, buying the currencies of countries that had sat out most of the war: the Norwegian and the Danish kroner, the U.S. dollar, and interestingly enough, the Indian rupee. He made $30,000 in the first few months. In early 1920, he set up a syndicate, with his brother, some of the Bloomsbury circle, and a financier friend from the City of London. By the end of April 1920, they had made a further $80,000. Then suddenly, in the space of four weeks, a spasm of optimism about Germany briefly drove the declining European currencies back up, wiping out their entire capital. Keynes found himself on the verge of bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by his tolerant father. Nevertheless, propped up by his indulgent family and by a loan from the coolly acute financier Sir Ernest Cassel, he persevered in his speculations—built for the most part around the view that the German and Central European currencies
p171 And so, when the new currency was introduced on November 15, 1923, Germany found itself in the curious position of having two official currencies—the old Reichsmark and the new Rentenmark—circulating side by side, issued by two uniquely parallel central banks.
p192 When the war ended, Morgans became the natural conduit of American money into Europe. Its status as one of the great powers to be reckoned with was confirmed in July 1920, when a group of anarchists, instead of targeting a head of state or government as it might have done before the war, chose to place a bomb outside the offices of J. P. Morgan & Co. at 23 Wall Street.25 The partners were unscathed, but thirty-eight bystanders were killed and another four hundred injured
p389 On March 12, 1932, the world learned that Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king, who had bailed out so many penniless European countries, had shot himself in his apartment on the Avenue Victor Emmanuel III in Paris. At first it was assumed that he was just another victim of the times—he had recently suffered a nervous breakdown and his physician had warned him about the constant strain of his lifestyle on his heart. Within three weeks it became apparent that his whole enterprise had been a sham. His accounts were riddled with inflated valuations and bogus assets, including $142 million of forged Italian government bonds. When the losses to investors were eventually tallied, they amounted to $400 million.(less)