Sunday, April 19, 2009

George Soros' book The Crash of 2008

I'm reading George Soros' 'The Crash of 2008 and What it Means; the New Financial Paradigm' . George Soros is the 29th richest person in the world, and a champion of progressive causes.

The thesis of this book isn't easy to quickly summarize, but it's a really good one. He says there are two ways of interacting with the financial world, as an observer or as a participant. The observational role entails looking at phenomena, and drawing rational conclusions. The participatory role involves manipulating the system and acting in your own self-interest. Now you would think that that the two states of interaction could be operate completely independently, so (for example) a stock trader would read the news, draw rational conclusions that would inform their trading activities. But the reality, according to Soros, is that human participants can't decouple the two. If you participate, your ability to be a detached observer is affected by what you experience firsthand. You come to believe that the rules that work for you are better universal rules than anything a detached observer would come up with. Maybe that works fine as long as you keep getting richer. But what if you and all the other participants screw up the whole market, and you've got a George Bush style administration that still thinks that these bozos are the 'experts' on the economy? The way out of the mess is to restore a balance with rational observation, and clear the air of old beliefs.

That's about as few lines as I could express it in!!

Soros includes some autobiography over the course of the book. He studied philosophy a lot when he was younger, especially Karl Popper, and he claims to not be a philosopher, but the book comes off as philosophy...actually quite good philosophy. I think Soros' way of viewing financial interaction as a kind of "bi-camerel mind" is pretty original stuff.

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