Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The World is Curved


I got this note in my email about this book The World is Curved by David Smick. I did not think much of it, but it said it was blurbed by Greenspan, Barton Biggs, Laurence Summers, Jean-Claude Trichet, and others. Then I find it was praised by about 50 of these types of guys, as if Davos had a session on writing blurbs for David Smick. See the quotes here.

So, I wondered around the site, and read the first two chapters. Something about how we are all interconnected, and the Chinese are going to have a lot of investing power, the market has been fluctuating a lot recently, financial instruments are complicated (things called 'collateralized debt obligations'). Most importantly, though Thomas Friedman's book the World is Flat is GREAT, he says, the world is actually curved (who knew?), because things change unexpectedly (hey, Taleb, he stole your idea!). Lastly, the author talks to all sorts of smart, powerful people ("Friend of mine at the Fed say...").

This book riffs on so many cliches (we are at a tipping point) in a way that just mentions current trends ad nauseum, as if listing the trends and facts of financial markets somehow awes me into an appreciation that this collection of observations has a point, other than, the world is complicated, and though it may get better, it may get worse. Like many of these types of books, he seems to think he clarifies things by mentioning lots of varied facts, or some banal observations are really profound (eg, capital flows: important). He did not get to his point in the two first chapters of his book, perhaps its at the end ('plastics', or something).

But the list of advanced praise highlights a bad equilibrium in book blurbing. I can't imagine these people read the book and felt the way they did. Did Lawrence Summers really say "He writes in a way that makes giving close attention a pleasure."? Did Stan Druckemiller really write "It's a 'must read'"? If you think stock analysts were in cahoots with the investment banks, then the book blurbing industry is that situation raised to the google power. And if this is a 'must read' according to the Davos crowd, it clearly highlights the champagne was flowing, and its scary to think these guys are making the key decisions at the Fed, White House, etc.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

since when is summers authority? summers and rubin are 2 dinosaurs this world can't put behind soon enough. i recently learned rubin got a cool $118m from citi since '98. the humanity!

isn't druckenmiller the one who lost a couple billion in nasdaq 2000 and soros gave him the boot?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought "The World is Flat" was awful enough.

Anonymous said...

http://www.smh.com.au/news/news/100-things-author-dies-before-completing-his-list/2008/08/27/1219516552773.html'

"Dave Freeman, co-author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die, a travel guide and ode to odd adventures that inspired readers and imitators, died after hitting his head in a fall at his home. He was 47."

Anonymous said...

This is just a pointer to a small, but interesting book, by Aronica and Ramdoo, "The World is Flat? A Critical Analysis of Thomas Friedman's New York Times Bestseller," which offers a counterperspective to Friedman's theory on globalization.

It is a small book compared to the 600 page tome by Friedman, and aimed at the common man and students alike. As popular as the book may be, some reviewers assert that by what it leaves out, Friedman's book is dangerous. The authors point to the fact that there isn't a single table or data footnote in Friedman's entire book.

"Globalization is the greatest reorganization of the world since the Industrial Revolution," says Aronica. Aronica and Ramdoo conclude by listing over twenty action items that point the way forward, for understanding the critical issues of globalization.

You may want to see www.mkpress.com/flat
and watch www.mkpress.com/flatoverview.html
for an interesting counterperspective on Friedman's
"The World is Flat".

Also a really interesting 6 min wake-up call: Shift Happens! www.mkpress.com/ShiftExtreme.html

There is also a companion book listed: Extreme Competition: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation
www.mkpress.com/extreme
http://www.mkpress.com/Extreme11minWMV.html

Anonymous said...

well, money: books: money

those people amke money when time's good, make money when time's not good. it's all about money. I'm sick of development, don't get me wrong, having grown up in China I know poverty and the goodness of development, but still I am sick of this. I'd rather eat tomato out of my own garden everyday. From enlightenment for more or less three hundred years, what have we done, who have we taught, what do we know?

why cant we stop all that and start living, whichever is preferable so long it does not require hundreds other people to serve just one. I am out of my lawyer job and couldn't be happier. Why do people write bestsellers? Entertainment, maybe if we think those books as TV programmes we'd feel less upset. Still it might not resolve the scary point mentioned above about those same people being in charge of the world, but heck, ain't it always that way? I wish to die, sincerely, just to pass away, but again it is troublesome, I’ll let nature takes its course with me then.

Also thinking about this, why do we need globalisation. With the technology we have, we could just have an essentially agriculture based small household economy, coupled with the internet and free time, that'd be fun. But I suppose that’d be bad too ins oem eyes. But I'm lovin it.

Anonymous said...

What? Smick unlike others actually offers realistic solutions and ideas about not just whats happening, but why it's happening and what we can do about it. This man has tremendous experience and very good insight. He wouldn't get paid so much to give his opinions if he were like the rest. Try reading the book without such a stupid attitude and you might learn something. He does come back to his point in the first two chapters in the last two chapters.

russ said...

Anyone posessing more than a double digit I.Q. will immediately spot the contradictions and illogical conclusions throughout this book. THIMK