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This book was hard to read. Not because it was poorly written. Indeed, Rana Foroohar writes well, making complex concepts fairly simple to understand, with quotes and stories that illustrate points without being too contrived. No complicated charts, graphs or equations either. Rather, the book was hard to read because it paints such a bleak picture of our economy and of our future. The American economy is sick, and the name Rana Foroohar gives the illness is “financialization”, an “apt but wonky name” for the rise of “takers” and the fall of “makers”.Who are makers and takers? Makers make true economic growth. Takers enrich themselves rather than society at e issue is not just amazing vs evil. Our economy needs finance to grow. But when there are too a lot of takers and not enough makers, the fertilization finance gives the economy turns into more of a blight. The harvest is less bountiful, created worse by the takers taking an ever larger share from the shrinking e numbers defining this illness are staggering, and Rana Foroohar gives plenty of those. For example, only about 15% of financial flows now go into projects in the “real” economy that effect in growth. The rest goes into trades between financial institutions that are bets, not investments. As Warren Buffett told her: “You’ve now got a body of people who’ve decided they’d rather go to the casino than the restaurant [of capitalism].”Though the presentation of them is fresh, the ideas in the book are not new. Other authors have diagnosed the same illness of financialization in both the United States and the United Kingdom (over there it’s “financialisation”), including:Other People's Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People?, by John Kay (The title comes from a 1914 book by Louis Brandeis before he joined the Supreme Court. This is the British subtitle. In the United States, the subtitle is "The True Business of Finance". Not nearly as pithy.)The Amazing Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, by David StockmanBetween Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance, by Adair TurnerOnce the diagnosis is made, the issue becomes the familiar one from the fable of belling the cat. If financialization is the illness, what is the cure? And how can we create the patient drink it down? There opinion differs, often greatly. One can observe the symptoms of the illness, and the effects are there for all to see. Much harder to come up with is a convincing cure. Effects often have elusive causes, particularly in a complex adaptive system like the American economy.When it comes to cure, I’m not sure Rana Foroohar has a amazing answer. She writes well, and has done her research. But though she has 23 years of experience as a journalist, she is just a journalist. And mostly a columnist and commentator who appears a lot on tv and radio—this is her first book. Unlike the writers cited above, Rana Foroohar has no experience as an academic or a practicing politician. Her name is Iranian, but she grew up in the United States. Her academic degree is a B.A. in English literature, and she is not an expert on the economy and finance. Not that that’s necessarily a poor thing. Her reporting for this book is in depth over decades, she understands economics (though her view is high level and a small unconventional), and she has read a lot and interviewed a lot of people. But reporting tends to be superficial, to grab attention and then leave the hard work to others. It tends more toward the polemic than the expository. It is better for diagnosis than for cure.Rana Foroohar wrote a cover article for TIME magazine (where she works) that summarizes this book, calling the article “Saving Capitalism”. (Reading that article may give you a amazing idea of whether you wish to read this lengthy book. The best quotes and concepts from the book are in that article.) And saving capitalism is exactly what Rana Foroohar proposes to do. In this book, she maps out five key policy locations where we can place finance back in service to business and society, turning the masters of the universe back into servants of the people. But her prescriptions for a cure seem untested and e flipping of our economy from makers to takers is a serious, complicated problem, with no simple answers. Pundits and politicians push policy prescriptions on us as though they are easy and proven, but none are. So I do not blame Rana Foroohar for not having a certain cure to offer for the financialization illness. But that lack of a cure, unfortunately, is the weakness of her work. Even so, Makers and Takers is a book worth reading. The more discussion of these issues, the better. A lot of seem not even to recognize our economy is sick, allow alone seek a cure. Even with the supposed cures following the 2008 crash, the patient seems just as sick. Perhaps readable books like this read more widely will begin to remedy ough not as dramatic, Makers and Takers unsettled me, and created me think, just as much as the movie The Huge Short. There seems more gloom than hope in books like this. More dirge than anthem. A touch of the jeremiad and not a whiff of the Panglossian. Still, I hope that dark view motivates us to search a cure. I hope our economic future will be brighter than the past. For our children’s sake.
In 1946, over a decade before he became the architect of the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara was hired to rehaul the Ford Motor Company. It was in desperate need of help. The iconic corporation was hemorrhaging about $9 million a month. McNamara, an accountant by training who rose to prominence by applying statistical methods to warfare planning, immediately transformed the culture. Decisions were no longer created from the eye of a designer, or the experience of the line-worker. He immediately developed complex financial metrics to measure a product’s viability. Every penny spent in manufacturing, marketing, design, and engineering had to be justified and rationalized through this analysis. It shifted power from engineers to MBAs. Within three years he doubled the company’s profits. In Makers and Takers, Rana Foroohar argues that this was the end of American global automobile leadership. As crazy as it sounds, the question needs to be asked: Did modern finance destroy innovation?Makers and TakersThe book’s central argument is that finance should be a utility. Unlike an electric company, which allocates energy to businesses and people to power the economy, banks allocate capital. Theoretically, in an efficient financial system all an entrepreneur needs to do is have a amazing idea and a solid business plan. The bank evaluates the plan, loans the money, and makes a profit on the interest. It’s an easy, boring business. If things work out the entrepreneur becomes wealthy, people are employed, and the community receives long term investment. Foroohar presents the case that McNamara spearheaded a revolution that moved finance from a supporter of the economy to the center piece. It no longer allocates capital and gets out of the way; today finance manages nearly all aspects of business. It no longer helps create society; it takes from may be asking yourself, “Didn’t McNamara’s approach double profits in a few years? Didn’t he he bring a company back from the dead?” I think Foroohar’s respond would be: not really. Of course, every firm needs some level of financial structure to succeed, and he should be applauded for his contribution. But during the post-WW2 era, Ford’s growth was driven primarily by societal trends not anything one person did. The U.S. government invested $25 billion to make a 41,000 mile interstate highway system that reduced the time it took to cross the country from about two months to five days. Incomes rose by 2.5 percent a year creating the middle class. In plain English, McNamara’s arrival coincided with both a heavy increase in the demand for vehicles and a budding infrastructure to drive them on. He was born on third base, and everyone thought he hit a om a product perspective, Ford was in such amazing shape that it took about a decade for McNamara’s impact to be felt. According David Halberstam’s The Reckoning, a 1986 opus on the decline of the American automobile industry, under his system, managers “contrived not to improve but in the most subtle method to weaken each vehicle model, year by year.” This meant “a cheaper metal here, a quicker drying paint there.” Foroohar reports that the system tried to eliminate spare tires in the vehicles, because managers didn’t know anyone who ever had to change a tire (Executives often had company cars—replaced every six months). Eventually the little cutbacks led to large profits at the expense of quality. During his tenure, Ford debuted two of the most universally loathed vehicles in the history of the industry: The Pinto and the Edsel. “Accountants were replacing tradesmen,” Foroohar writes. “Making cash was slowly but surely replacing the goal of making amazing products.”The hidden poison: Modern finance destroyed innovationThe most damaging legacy of McNamara may have been his impact on labor relations. Labor became a commodified input. It was now something to be managed and squeezed; just a cost of doing business. Never mind that one of the major drivers of innovation is the collaboration of the factory floor and the engineering team. There’s a reason why Bell Labs designed their buildings to house both engineering and manufacturing—a tactic Tesla uses today. While Japanese and German firms were becoming more productive and agile by engraining labor into the strategic decisions of the company—America was building walls and eroding key competencies by outsourcing nclusionForoohar’s book isn’t perfect–it goes on a bit long and only offers a few solutions—but it’s a well-meaning and well researched book on the modern economy. Not the economy that we hear about on the nightly news or in sound bytes, but the actual structure and incentives driving modern business. She makes a amazing case that yes, modern the modern financial system has destroyed America’s ability to innovate. The entire system rewards short term gain, over long term investment. The amazing thing, she notes is that none of this is permanent. “We can remake [the economy] as we see fit to better serve our shared prosperity and economic growth.”This originally appeared on [...]Check it out for more reviews and analysis
This is the 200-somethingth review, so chop to the chase: this is a amazing survey of the impact of the financialization on the US economy. Its main strength is that it highlights a lot of facets of the problem. It’s not a fun book to read; it’s crammed with info and doesn’t necessarily create them all hang together clearly. But if you stick with it you’ll obtain a amazing — and unsettling — e author (RF) defines financialization as “the trend by which Wall Road and its method of thinking,” which she terms “short-term [and] risky,” have come to “permeate not just the financial industry but all of American business” (@5). She covers numerous aspects of this problem, including: how firms like Apple spend more on buying back their own shares than on R&D, how investment banks like Goldman Sachs hoard physical commodities like aluminum and drive up prices, how personal equity firms now control most of the US rental housing shop (that one was fresh to me), how fund managers are helping themselves to Americans’ retirement savings, as well as how financialization has distorted MBA education, the tax code and Washington regulators. I admit I didn’t pay much attention to her proposed solutions: I lack the faith of most American business journalists that huge corporate capitalism can provide solutions. But RF’s diagnosis is valuable because it’s so wide-ranging.While some reviewers found the book simple to read, I found it more average in that regard: passionate, quite serious, with some arresting anecdotes, but otherwise fact-filled and at times very jumpy in its timeline. It doesn’t go into depth on a lot of subjects of interest: e.g., it’s not the go-to book to understand the derivatives involved in the 2008 financial meltdown (read some chapters of Janet Tavakoli, instead). There are a few celebrity-journalist touches, such as an awkward passage describing how corporate raider Carl Icahn entertained RF with his voice impressions (@121), but these don’t become overwhelming. Immediately before picking up this book I’d read “And the Weak Suffer What They Must?” by the former finance minister of Greece, Yannis Varoufakis. That book covers a various subject (the evolution of the global financial system, and especially the Euro) but shares some features of this book, such as a choppy timeline and name-dropping private anecdotes. Nonetheless, Varoufakis is a clearer and more thorough expositor of complicated economic ideas, while inserting a amazing deal of charm and humor. He is a professor who obviously cares about teaching, while RF is a very busy journalist: that contrast may give you some idea of what to expect from this book.A consequence is that the book omits a few easy explanations that might support readers to fit more pieces of the puzzle together. One is that transactions on the stock shop generally don’t bring any cash to the company whose shares are being traded — the cash just trades hands between buyers and sellers. Despite what textbooks tell you about the necessary social role of the stock market, less than 1% of the annual value of all exchange-based equity trading around the globe goes to companies as fresh capital to expand their businesses; the rest is gambling. So when RF mentions that "activist investors" don't deserve large dividends from tech companies because they had no role in helping to make the companies' innovative technology or making their products (@124), the same is real of just about any not good zhlub who bought shares on the market: your cash didn't support the company accomplish anything. It also might support readers to know that that the value of financial transactions, including on the stock, bond, derivatives and forex markets, is officially excluded from the definition of GDP, which represents the “real” economy of goods and services. The global annual value of trades on stock exchanges alone is bigger than global GDP, and when you consider the value of all trades in all sorts of financial assets, you obtain a lot of multiples of global GDP. That, in a nutshell, is why rich people see financial markets as a much better put to create cash than the true economy in which most of us work, earn cash and me minor issues: RF omits to mention the role of stock analysts in driving both share prices and executive behavior, and to define such terms as “asset values” and “Chinese walls” (and "eating-club": it's a Princeton thing, apparently). Some of her history, especially in Chapter 3, seemed to me a bit off in a few details, too. Surely systems analysis originated not in finance (@75) but in engineering and military operations research: see S. Optner, ed., “Systems Analysis” (Penguin 1973). RF seems to suggest that managers in the 1950s were focused on stock price (@81); but as I recall from listening to grown-ups as a kid in the early 1960s, investors cared most about dividends (and “clipping coupons” if they were bondholders), i.e., about a steady stream of income accruing from holding onto assets, not from making cash by trading. Also, by equating the emphasis on the bottom line and accounting that prevailed in that era with “financialization” (@79), RF seems to be using the word in a various sense from her definition at the beginning of the book. Finally, I found at least one significant mistake: RF says that the 1919 Michigan Supreme Court case of Dodge v. Ford “enshrined in law” the notion that “companies ha[ve] a legal obligation to maximize profits for investors, and that their interests trumped those of anyone else” (@70-71). When it comes to the day-to-day operations of a company (as distinguished from sale of the company in certain M&A transactions), this is simply not real in any US state or major country of the world, with the possible exception of Michigan. Plenty of businesspeople do believe there is such a legal duty, which often leads to corporations acting like jerks; so it doesn’t support for this book to encourage that false sum, this isn't a book to read for its style, nor, aside from a few anecdotes, for its details. But for its huge picture of how finance has invaded and destabilized so a lot of locations of our lives, it's worth your time.
This is one of the better books available on what's wrong with our economy and the causes of the slow e author spends a lot of time writing about Wall Road and "financialization" of businesses. Robert McNamara and the "Whiz Kids" changed the auto industry and not in a amazing way. That was only one of a lot of examples of what I would call accounting and numbers becoming a focus over engineering and quality. Carly Fiorina is e does an perfect job of following history and how along with financial deregulation, there has been a shift in priorities taught in business schools. Greed is good, tax inversions are ok, and the concept of "financial engineering." Corporate buybacks and short term profit over long term stability.On the financialization of business she covers Jack Welch (a pioneer in outsourcing American jobs) and GE's crossing over into financial services.Another very necessary topic is the slow recovery from the Amazing Recession. A lot of wealth is being kept in a "closed feedback loop" at the top.I wasn't aware of how much huge banks were buying up distressed housing. That highlights the emphasis on the housing recovery in general - cover the banks that gambled rather than the ere are plenty of rogues in the gallery- Goldman Sachs and their aluminum hoarding scandal. Pfizer and their quest to dodge corporate taxes in the id all the gloom the author does offer some more than reasonable solutions to the a lot of is is a 5 star book and then some!
I liked it. It's well and engagingly written, and doesn't require a PhD in economics (or whatever) to understand. I've always been personally quite conservative, but socially quite liberal, so a lot of what is written in this book rings real with roohar covers a lot of ground, most of which un-brain dead, open-minded, curious people have probably heard at one time or another on the air, online, or in print (e.g., her Time Magazine articles). But she employs good, real-world examples and info (that you don't obtain in typical media sound bites). They expanded my understanding of the issues, but got a small redundant. My experience is that a lot of this type of books chop, hash and mince the points over and over and over again, which is too bad.With less of redundancy, Foroohar could have more examples in greater depth (and still filled out the pages into a true book length). Or she could have provided more detail about her prescription for the future. I think the latest chapter on the future is really us only 3-stars. I still recommend that everybody read it, because it does include amazing information, is simple to read and engaging. But just don't obtain too excited, because the content just isn't there to fulfill the title's promise.
The book provides a lot of chilling examples of how financial institutions are increasingly controlling major shares of the economy. One of the most obvious is the derivatives business. Globally, the value of all outstanding derivatives contracts (including credit default swaps, interest rate derivatives, foreign exchange rate derivatives, commodities-linked derivatives, and so on) was $ 630 trillion at the beginning of 2015, while the gross shop value of those contracts was $ 21 trillion. Back in 2008, their notional value was $ 67 trillion, while the shop value of all the outstanding bonds issued by US companies underlying that shop was only $ 15 trillion. This shows that in the past 7 years the assets on which this gambling is based has grown by 35% (from 15 trillion to 21 trillion) while purely speculative activity has grown by a factor of nearly 10 (from 67 trillion to 630 trillion), which is nearly 1000%. The only thing the author doesn't address is how long we can expect the rest of the globe to permit the US banks to profit from, and risk the security of, the globe economy in this manner.
An incredibly thought provoking book about how finance has taken over business. The general theme is that the financiers of the globe have taken over business in the sense that people do not run businesses for product development, R&D etc. but rather they run businesses that are driven by financial engineering. Case in point: Apple. Apple has transformed itself from a company that ignored wall road and just focused on wonderful R&D and development of innovative products to a company whose stock is driven by financial engineering. They borrow cash to pay dividends!As if to prove this point, I was watching CNBC interview a person about what GE will do with the "windfall" now that they are not under the capital rules of "too huge to fail". The "smart" person being interviewed said they could do one of three things: 1) Buy back stock 2) pay dividends 3) buy a company. This is exactly the craziness that Rana discussed. None of those three things add value - in fact, they generally extract value to the privileged investor. What about investing in developing fresh products? That was not even is a fascinating book and really should be read by all. It is the financial take over that is consuming business which is a key reason we have a stagnant economy.
I just completed “Makers and Takers” by Rana Foroohar, a noted business columnist with Time and a CNN economic analyst who has 20+ years of experience writing about the economy and business. She describes the issue of Financialization of the US economy, which is the short term focus of business. She describes how American business companies like GE and Apple have used financial measures to manipulate their stock value rather than long term investment in products. She describes how Wall Street, investment banks, personal equity, hedge funds and others hurt our economy with all of their manipulation and risk. I was surprised to learn how investment banks like Goldman Sachs have such a significant role in commodities and how they often drive commodity prices higher due to their manipulation of this is a amazing book overall which identifies a lot of issues with our current economy and how our economy has evolved into its current state over the latest 30 to 40 years. She has a brief chapter on how to change things. She has some amazing ideas but does not discuss HOW these would be accomplished. I would like to have seen something more actionable to improve our economy. She discusses a lot of things throughout the book in a somewhat shotgun fashion. I think a huge improvement to the book would be an expanded section discussing tactical and strategic actions that could improve our economy that contains ideas scattered through the book as well as some of the huge ideas at the end. Realistically, the financialization issue will persist until we see a change in our political system that reduces the impact of lobbying. We had a near meltdown of our economy in 2008 and have not adequately corrected the issues which caused that (which the author agrees with), so I do not see how we can fix this until other changes are so, she seems to have a liberal perspective and therefore sees a lot of issues from that perspective. In spite of that, I believe she is spot on in most of her commentary.
TIMES magazine did not exaggerate one bit by giving Rana's work front cover latest year. If you really wish to know what is wrong with the America Economy, look no farther! I am a Robotic Automation Architect who finally had to leave my Fortune 100 Managed Health Care company of 27 years because they simply would not and could not innovate! Bottom Line, they didn't have the leadership to do so and most certainly did not have the will. Chief reason for such a condition? Ultimate because of the financialization of American businesses. When your Fortune 500 CEOs are compensated 82% in Stock, they are aligned with the financial industry and incentivized to treat their companies as speculative financial instruments, instead of Engines of the Economy. Of course, Capital Hill is in on all of this, since they have progressively dismantled the rules and regulation that have allowed the Financial Industry shifted from funding business growth into skimming lucrative profits from businesses. Definitely the Tail Wagging the Dog! Rana goes into all the historical detail in depth, which may be the Book,s only fault. All the tedious detail!
The research and analysis in this book should begin your eyes to the deep class divide in the U.S., and other parts of the world. The finalization and privatization of everything that really matters does not lead a better society. A little percentage of the population is hoarding wealth and taking more and more of the economic pie. Deregulation of the finance sector makes this type of private wealth accumulation possible. It also means that we increasingly rely on a debt-based, fiat economy, that makes cash off of money, and trades and exploits things and labor for profit and greed. This type of economic system means things will obtain a lot worse.
I chose "Going Home" as the title for my review because it's my private opinion that we "must" go home again to experience real healing . Only then can we search the best path for our lives. This is what happens to Taylor's character, Daisy, who is forced to go home when she loses her footing on the corporate ladder as well as her job. The story was a bit confusing as it similar to past relationships with family members. In certain places, it seemed Daisy hadn't seen her family in years although she lived just on the other side of the Potomac. At other times, it seemed they had shared holidays and other usual family occasions."Going home" forces Daisy to face her early childhood adoption and all the problems that trauma had caused throughout her life; specifically, in relationships with her sisters and parents as well as with the man she thought she loved. I found the mystery of Daisy's background and the unusual method she was forced into discovering her real identity very interesting. The local history was also a draw to me. All in all, I found The Union Road Bakery a very enjoyable read.
It's been awhile since I've read a book that I've enjoyed so much. When Daisy loses her job and comes home to work at the bakery, she has no idea what is in shop for her. The relationship and bond between she and her two sisters weaves a unbelievable story of family and how they work together to defeat their struggles. Intertwined in this story is a mystery about Daisy's past that unfolds through journals from a young slave girl. Loved this book! Can't wait until the 2nd one comes out!!
What a nice novel, I truly enjoyed reading The union road bakeryA family that sticks together stays together, A lotuntold secrets. Daisy battling with her identity since she was leftat bakery age 3 years old wow who does that, but ended up witha family who truly loved her. I just ordered the next novelGREAT JOB!