All in Book Review

America's Fantasy

Kurt Andersen writes in his book “Fantasyland How America went haywire: A 500-year history,” the current president is “stupendous Exhibit A” in the landscape of “Fantasyland,” a fitting leader for a nation that has, over the centuries, nurtured a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue.” 

Thank the Fed for Workamping

Bruder’s book is chalk full of sad stories of layoffs, foreclosures, and lack of family support. At the same time, these nomads, workampers or rubber tramps, are a resilient bunch, who left behind the costs and responsibilities of real estate for “wheelestate” to survive their golden years.  

Politically Incorrect Architecture

“Abolish social housing, scrap prescriptive planning regulations and usher in the wholesale privatisation of our streets, squares and parks,” wrote Oliver Wainwright who was paraphrasing comments made by Patrik Schumacher shocking his architect colleagues in Berlin.  Suddenly, Schumacher became “the Trump of architecture."

It's exhilarating to read about working people who do their job better than anyone in the world. These people will never be wealthy or famous, but every day they do a job faster and better than anyone. Bourdain introduces readers to one of these gifted and productive people, in the kitchen at New York City's premier fish restaurant, Le Bernardin.

"If there is such a thing as dog-eat-dog capitalism, this must be it — with customers holding the leash."

If not for metaphors I doubt I could understand much of the modern world. So much of what it takes to produce what you're looking at right now I can't begin to fathom. But this lack of knowledge doesn't absolve me from making decisions involving this modern technology.

The author draws from a variety of disciplines in his quest to understand booms and crashes, spending the first part of the book explaining the lenses that he uses to examine these events. He disposes of the efficient-market hypothesis in his microeconomic lens and instead opts for George Soros's theory of reflexivity.

Thankfully, the Yale instructor is clearer in his writing than Mr. Soros. Instead of higher prices meaning lower demand and lower prices increasing demand thus leading to equilibrium and efficient markets, reflexivity takes into account human behavior.

In Triumph of the City, Glaeser makes the comment that he has "a taste for free markets," but anyone interested in his book should know going in that the author's free-market palate is slight; and the author's blind spot for markets and soft spot for government monopolies keeps an interesting book from being a great one.

Paterson was not just adventurous with her words — calling Eleanor Roosevelt "a pathetic fool" for instance — but the first time she flew, November 5, 1912, she set a record for reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet, flying higher than any woman had to that point. The 26-year old Canadian frontier girl sat beside pilot Harry Bingham Brown in the tiny Wright biplane, constructed of cloth and wood and said afterward, "It was the greatest experience of my life."

In Utah, she attended school but a month before asking to leave. She knew more than the teacher and at seven years old she was already reading "a consideration of Bryan's stand on the free silver question." So readings the teacher offered, like the Little Red Hen, provided no stimulation.

Hyman's most enlightening chapter is entitled "Securing Debt." After decades of urging the American public to borrow and banks to lend, in the 1960s the government planted the securitization seed that would grow to tip the financial system over in 2008. LBJ's Great Society looked to push capital into decaying cities, but the buying and selling of individual mortgages was cumbersome. Mortgage paper needed to be bondlike, and the Housing Act of 1968 implemented this vision, remaking "the American mortgage system in a way that had not been done since the New Deal."