Review: Raising Steam

Raising Steam
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Bit of a mixed bag, this one. The first two-thirds of the book are strangely flat. The social satire, deft characterization, and engrossing plot line that all mark the earlier books are absent. The humor is shallow (and not that funny), the characters all seem to speak with the same voice, and the scenes are disconnected and require determined effort to get through.

And then, in the final third, a switch is flipped and we are in classic Pratchett mode. If you have come to love them, it’s probably worth getting through. But if you are new to Discworld, I would recommend starting with another book. The first!

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Review: The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System

The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System
The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System by James Rickards

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Predicting that something will someday end requires no special knowledge as eventually everything ends. Monetary systems and currencies have failed before and they will continue to do so, the present ones not excepted. But predicting that something is about to end requires a bit more.

This book really wants to be a definitive and ideology-free look at the current international monetary system and the role of the US dollar, with a prescient warning about the system’s imminent collapse and the dollar’s failure as an international reserve currency.

But in execution this tome is a tedious slog through one person’s collection of shallow analogies about international finance and government which does not add up to a convincing case that the end is as nigh as the author claims. Analogies are not arguments, merely useful ways of illustrating them. The hard work of showing the appropriateness of the analogy must still be done, using reasoning and data. The book’s small number of graphs, tables, and equations falls far short of providing the needed support. You can’t just say, for example, that inflation and deflation are like the two faces of a geological fault line and proceed as if it’s true. You must show why the analogy works and end notes do not suffice.

Regarding the claim of ideological freedom, anytime someone claims to be ideology-free you can be sure they have simply internalized their own to the point where it is no longer visible to them. What the analogies presented here amount to is a morality tale in which greedy rentiers and meddling central bankers use the pernicious policies prescribed by the nefarious Keynes and Krugman to inflate away the wealth of those who work hard for a living. The coming financial apocalypse will, apparently, see the villains get their just deserts.

The hero of the tale is not a who but a what: the 79th element of the periodic table, the one that God made to serve as our currency. Gold! Dere’s gold in dem dar bills! Or there will be, once the financial system is finally set to rights.

But what’s a concerned citizen to do with Ragnarok around the corner? Adjust your investment portfolio, obviously. Spoiler alert: here is the proper mix of assets you’ll want to be sitting on as society dissolves around you and a gold-backed world currency rises from the ashes:

  • 20% Gold. Duh.
  • 20% Land.
  • 10% Fine art and collectibles.
  • 20% Alternative funds.
  • 30% Cash.

Happy investing.

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Review: Meditations

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

My rating: 0 of 5 stars

How do you reconcile yourself with death and the decrees of fate?

Take some advice from this gentle soul. Contemplate the permanence of change and cast away opinion. Yours, that is. And if, like me, you occasionally find yourself thinking that it might be just a bit easier to reconcile oneself with one’s fate if one happens to be the Emperor of Rome well, we’ve just got some philosophical work to do, don’t we?

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