x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

William Bonner and Lila Rajiva: Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets

In this week's book review Asa Fitch takes a look at Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by William Bonner and Lila Rajiva Wiley

Voices of reason are hot commodities these days, considering the chaos into which the global markets have sunk. And that is what I thought might be found in Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets. Here was a book published last year - before the crisis went full-tilt - with a title that seemed to foreshadow the fear now roiling the globe, wreaking havoc on portfolios and retirement plans everywhere. Unfortunately, Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets instead delivers nothing more than a whiny catalogue of misanthropy with little useful advice for those of us who are trying to navigate today's financial straits. The authors' distaste for the mob - a crowd of nincompoops from which they grandly exempt themselves - obscures the few smart points they make and colours their poorly argued postulates with a snideness that will likely rankle any fair-minded reader. All wars ever fought were pointless, we are told. War heroes celebrated on Remembrance Day are illegitimate. All political careers are a sham. Losers. Fools. Hacks. The list of epithets Bonner and Rajiva assign to members of the mob goes on. And on. The tome takes an especially comical if unsettling turn when Bonner et al begin offering advice. First, we're led to believe that any investment scheme that diverges from the mob in a disciplined way will be successful, even if it's based on something as iffy as astrology. No real justification for this view is offered, and the fact that stock market indexes (metrics of the mob's valuation) have trended upwards for, oh, a couple of hundred years, is ignored. The authors go on to say we should leave investing to experts, and yet note that experts are often wrong. Then they urge buying property cheaply - but actually, not buying at all, except perhaps in Argentina. If you are in the market for some well-reasoned thinking about the financial mayhem, you'll have to look elsewhere. Wiley, 2007 Ratings Explained ★★★★★Excellent ★★★★Very good ★★★Good ★★Poor ★Dire afitch@thenational.ae