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Descriptions du produit


Annie Hall is a film with many great moments, and for me the best of them is the movie’s single scene with Annie’s younger brother, Duane Hall, played by Christopher Walken, the first of his long, brilliant career of cinema weirdos. Visiting the Hall family home, Alvy Singer—that’s Woody Allen—bumps into Duane, who immediately shares a fantasy:
“Sometimes when I’m driving . . . on the road at night . . . I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The . . . flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.”
It’s Alvy’s reply which makes the scene: “Right. Well, I have to—I have to go now, Duane, because I, I’m due back on the planet Earth.”
I’ve never shared Duane Hall’s wish to turn across the road into the oncoming headlights. I have to admit, though, that I have sometimes had a not-too-distant thought. It’s a thought which never hits me in town, or in traffic, or when there’s anyone else in the car, but when I’m on my own in the country, zooming down an empty road, with the radio on, and everything is moving free and clear, as it hardly ever is with today’s traffic, but when it is, I sometimes have a fleeting thought, one I’ve never acted on and hope I never will. The thought is this: what would happen if I chose this moment to put the car into reverse?
When you ask car buffs that, the first thing they do is to give you a funny look. Then they give you another funny look. Then they explain that what would happen is that the car’s engine would basically explode: bits of it would burst through other bits, rods would fly through the air, the carburetor would burst into fragments, there would be incredible noise and smell and smoke, and you would swerve off the road and crash with the certainty of serious injury and the high probability of death. These explanations are sufficiently convincing that I find that the thought of putting the car into reverse flits across my mind only very temporarily, for about half a second at a time, say once every two or three years. I’m sure it’s something I’ll never do.
For the first years of the new millennium, the whole planet was zooming along, doing the equivalent of seventy on a clear road on a sunny day. Between 2000 and 2006, public discourse in the Western world was dominated by the election of George W. Bush, the attacks of 9/11, the “global war on terror” and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But while all that was happening, something momentous was taking place, not quite unnoticed but with bizarrely little notice: the world’s wealth was almost doubling. In 2000, the total GDP of Earth—the sum total of all the economic activity on the planet—was $36 trillion.* By the end of 2006, it was $70 trillion. In the developed world, so much attention was given to the bust in dot-com shares in 2000—“the greatest destruction of capital in the history of the world,” as it was called at the time—that no one noticed the way the Western economies bounced back. The stock market was relatively stagnant, for reasons I’ll go into later, but other sectors of the economy were booming. So was the rest of the planet. An editorial in The Economist in 1999 pointed out that the price of oil was now down to $10 a barrel, and issued a solemn warning: it might not stay there: there were reasons for thinking the price of oil might go to $5 a barrel. Ha!
By July 2008 the price of oil had risen to $147.70 a barrel, and as a result the oil-producing countries were awash with cash. From the Arab world to Russia to Venezuela, the treasury departments of all oil-producing countries resembled the scene in The Simpsons in which Monty Burns and his assistant, Smithers, pick up wads of cash and throw them at each other while shouting “Money fight!” The demand for oil was so avid because large sections of the developing world, especially India and China, were undergoing unprecedented levels of economic growth. Both countries suddenly had a hugely expanding, highly consuming new middle class. China’s GDP was averaging growth of 10.8 percent a year, India’s 8.9 percent. In fifteen years, India’s middle class, using a broad definition of the term meaning the section of the population who had escaped from poverty, grew from 147 million to 264 million; China’s went from 174 million to 806 million, arguably the greatest economic achievement anywhere on Earth, ever. Chinese personal income grew by 6.6 percent a year from 1978 to 2004, four times as fast as the world average. Thirty million Chinese children are taking piano lessons. Two-fifths of all Indian secondary school boys have regular after-school tuition. When you have two and a quarter billion people living in countries whose economies are booming in that way, you are living on a planet with a whole new economic outlook. Hundreds of millions of people are measurably richer and have new expectations to match. So oil is up, manufacturing is up, the price of commodities—the stuff which goes to make stuff—is up, the economy of (almost) the entire planet is booming. Who knows, optimists think, with the global economy growing at this rate, we can perhaps begin to think seriously about meeting the United Nations’ Millennium Development goals, such as halving the number of hungry people, and of people whose income is less than $1 a day, by 2015.1 That seemed utopian at the time the goals were set, but with the world $34 trillion richer, it suddenly looked as if this unprecedented target might be achieved.
And then it was as if the global economy went out one day and decided it was zooming along so well, there’d never be a better moment to try that thing of putting the car into reverse. The result . . . well, out of what seemed to most people a clear blue sky, the clearest blue sky ever, there was a colossal wreck. That left an awful lot of people wondering one simple thing: what happened?
I’ve been following the economic crisis for more than two years now. I began working on the subject as part of the background to a novel, and soon realized that I had stumbled across the most interesting story I’ve ever found. While I was beginning to work on it, the British bank Northern Rock blew up, and it became clear that, as I wrote at the time, “If our laws are not extended to control the new kinds of super-powerful, super-complex, and potentially super-risky investment vehicles, they will one day cause a financial disaster of global-systemic proportions.” I also wrote, apropos the obvious bubble in property prices, that “you would be forgiven for thinking that some sort of crash is imminent.” I was both right and too late, because all the groundwork for the crisis had already been done—though the sluggishness of the world’s governments, in not preparing for the great unraveling of autumn 2008, was then and still is stupefying. But this is the first reason why I wrote this book: because what’s happened is extraordinarily interesting. It is an absolutely amazing story, full of human interest and drama, one whose byways of mathematics, economics, and psychology are both central to the story of the last decades and mysteriously unknown to the general public. We have heard a lot about “the two cultures” of science and the arts—we heard a particularly large amount about it in 2009, because it was the fiftieth anniversary of the speech during which C. P. Snow first used the phrase. But I’m not sure the idea of a huge gap between science and the arts is as true as it was half a century ago—it’s certainly true, for instance, that a general reader who wants to pick up an education in the fundamentals of science will find it easier than ever before. It seems to me that there is a much bigger gap between the world of finance and that of the general public and that there is a need to narrow that gap, if the financial industry is not to be a kind of priesthood, administering to its own mysteries and feared and resented by the rest of us. Many bright, literate people have no idea about all sorts of economic basics, of a type that financial insiders take as elementary facts of how the world works. I am an outsider to finance and economics, and my hope is that I can talk across that gulf.
My need to understand is the same as yours, whoever you are. That’s one of the strangest ironies of this story: after decades in which the ideology of the Western world was personally and economically individualistic, we’ve suddenly been hit by a crisis which shows in the starkest terms that whether we like it or not—and there are large parts of it that you would have to be crazy to like—we’re all in this together. The aftermath of the crisis is going to dominate the economics and politics of our societies for at least a decade to come and perhaps longer. It’s important that we try to understand it and begin to think about what’s next.
* GDP, which will be mentioned quite a few times in this story, sounds complicated but isn’t: it’s nothing more than the value of all the goods and services produced in an economy. GDP per capita, measuring each individual’s piece of the country’s pie, is the standard measure of prosperity.

From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Revue de presse

The route map to the crazed world of contemporary finance we have all been waiting for. --Will Self

Explains the madness of modern capitalism with razor-sharp insight, brilliant clarity and a refreshing dose of humour. --John O'Farrell

…everyone ought to read it. --The Sunday Times

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Détails sur le produit

  • CD: 6 pages
  • Editeur : Whole Story Audio Books; Édition : Unabridged (1 juin 2010)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1407457683
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407457680
  • Dimensions du produit: 14,9 x 2,6 x 13,4 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 1.140.127 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Par jimbo le 3 juillet 2011
Format: Broché
This book gives a very readable account of the financial corruption and greed that almost brought the world economy to a standstill in 2008 (and we're still not out of the mess yet). John Lanchester is a clear and entertaining writer for the London Review of Books. They commissioned him to look at what the banks were up to before and during the Crisis, and expanding from these essays he wrote this sweeping account to explain in straightforward terms what went wrong, and how greedy bankers and financiers created huge wealth for themselves by screwing the rest of us. Highly recommended! However, the question remains: when will we finally catch these villains or even learn to stop them doing it all over again - don't forget, we still have to pay to clean up their mess!
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 82 commentaires
64 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A brilliant, crystal clear, explanation of the financial meltdown 25 janvier 2010
Par David M. Giltinan - Publié sur
Format: Relié
John Lanchester's explanation of the economic meltdown of 2008-2009 gets my 5-star rating for a number of reasons:

* it's short, but comprehensive - in just over 200 pages, he tells you not just what happened, but how and why
* it's brilliantly written - Lanchester, a novelist and regular contributor to "The New Yorker" and "London Review of Books", hits the ideal combination of explanation and analysis. When he started his research from the book, he did so as a smart, intelligent outsider, with the curiosity and bulls**t-detecting skills of a keen reporter, all of which makes him an ideal guide.
* the author's ability to explain complicated technical material in a way that is succinct, but crystal clear
* even though some of the book's implications are pretty depressing, Lanchester is authoritative, clear-sighted, and extremely funny
* his ability to place events in the relevant historical and cultural perspective is impressive

Before reading "I.O.U.", the only other work by Lanchester that I had read was his debut novel "The Debt to Pleasure" (which won the Whitbread award, among other prizes). That book had a certain appeal, but was also quite disturbing. This latest book is a terrific accomplishment, and I have no reservations about giving it my highest rating.

One of Lanchester's concluding metaphors is borrowed from climate scientist James Lovelock, who observed, about 20 years ago, that what the planet needed was the equivalent of a small heart attack. Such an episode, in an individual's life, is often beneficial, because it forces the person to fact unpleasant facts and to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In Lanchester's view, the recent economic crisis, is the equivalent of laissez-faire capitalism's small heart attack. We have the chance to insist that our governments change the rules to make sure that it truly can never happen again, because even if there is only the ghost of a chance that it can, it will; that's the nature of modern markets. Failure to make the needed changes at this point is the equivalent of celebrating our release from hospital with a carton of Rothmans, a bottle of tequila, and a supersized Big Mac with jumbo fries.

In other words, it's time to abandon the hedonic treadmill and hop on a real one.
20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A New Clarity on the Great Recession 7 août 2010
Par William Fritz - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I've been trying to fully understand what happened to our economy in 2007-2008 and into the present. I'm not an economist but an interested amateur (and a history teacher who wants to be accurate). I've read several books on the subject as well as the writings of several online economists. What always bogs me down is what I'll call "street speak"--the use of insider terms that are completely over my head.

While this book still occasionally leaves me in the dust, the author has done the best job I've seen in aiding this "non-Streeter's" understanding of the events that caused the "Great Recession." Mr. Lanchester uses ordinary examples to explain what happened, which helped me a great deal.

I'm often told that nobody fully understands what happened or how these extraordinarily complex investment "opportunities" came to exist or what they contain(ed). I believe that, but I'm trying to get to the bottom of the whole pile of delusion: big money investors attempting to "hedge" risk out of existence and creating vehicles that served no useful purchase except to make them rich. And they're still rich.

If you are interested in some basic information on the genesis of this crisis, then turn to John Lanchester and his book "Whoops!" first.

It's also mighty interesting that the book, a 2010 UK copyright, is currently unavailable ANYWHERE in the US--at least it was when I ordered my copy.

And by the way: the book is well written and often (and unexpectedly) humorous.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Good, understandable analysis of a very complex situation 7 avril 2010
Par Dave Kuhlman - Publié sur
Format: Relié
What you will learn:

* A reasonably clear and understandable explanation of financial
derivatives and instruments.
* A short history of the latest boom and bust, how it happened in the
U.K. and the U.S., and some of the devastating effects in Detroit and
* Why and how we (humans) can't judge risk and shouldn't be trusted with
our own money. Also, why risk analysis models and programs help us to
take on even more risk than we should have and to make even worse
decisions than we would have.
* How things that were wrong were not detected by the people that should
have and why.
* A short history of financial deregulation and of regulatory failure in
both the U.K. and the U.S.

What's wrong:

* The values, both theirs and ours. After all, many of us were the ones
who maxed our credit cards and took on the mortgages we couldn't repay
and consolidated our loans so we could borrow more and ...
* The system -- It's not just a few bad people in the system (though we
had enough of those, too), it's the people that make up the system and
the power that they have and way the system responds to those people.
* The influence -- Our government responds to pressure (a democracy
should); but increasingly our government, in the U.S. responds to
pressure from those that have money or power or both. We are,
according to Lanchester, like a banana republic, 3rd world country in
that respect.
* The incentives - The pay and financial rewords for executives and for
those working in the financial industry are misaligned. Specifically,
the financial sector gave huge rewords to those who took extreme
risks, and it did not punish or give dis-incentives when those risks
went wrong.

What to do about it -- Saying that we all should become better people does
not seem very helpful. Voting the rascals out is likely to produce another
set of rascals. And, better regulation, which we are unlikely to get, only
works when you have better people to do the regulating, and vice versa. We
can hope that the next crash will be bad enough to cause a change, though
we'd really be foolish to wish for a next time. Perhaps "next time really
will be different".

You'll get all this and more from Lanchester's book.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Very good account of the economic crisis 15 février 2011
Par William Podmore - Publié sur
Format: Broché
This is an outstandingly good introduction to our current economic plight. Writer John Lanchester explains the crisis in simple and humorous terms.

The banks' larger profits and bonuses came not because they were doing anything better, but just because they were making bigger bets. Between 1986 and 2006, the average return per year on banking shares rose from 2 per cent to 16 per cent. Andrew Haldane, of the Bank of England, explained, "Since 2000, rising leverage fully accounts for movements in UK banks' ROE [return on equity] - both the rise to around 24% in 2007 and the subsequent fall into negative territory in 2008."

Lanchester points out, "If we had joined the euro and our mortgages were tied to those groovily low euro interest rates, money would have been even cheaper, and credit even more easily available, so the housing bubble would have been even bigger, and the crash correspondingly crashier. (Two examples of countries where that happened: Ireland and Spain.)"

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan admitted, "The consequent surge in global demand for US subprime securities by banks, hedge, and pension funds supported by unrealistically positive rating designations by credit agencies was, in my judgment, the core of the problem."

Lanchester observes, "the credit crunch was based on a climate (the post-Cold War victory party of free-market capitalism), a problem (the sub-prime mortgages), a mistake (the mathematical models of risk) and a failure, that of the regulators."

As he notes, "the process of lending is no longer driven the legitimate desire of poor-but-reliable people to own a house, but is instead a manufactured process driven by capital which is set loose looking for people to sign up loans. An epidemic began of what has come to be known as `predatory lending': mortgage lenders doing everything they could to sign up borrowers at higher-than-ordinary, sub-prime interest rates, so that the debt they created could then be pooled and securitized and sold on as tranches of various grades of CDO [collateralized debt obligations]." The USA has 250,000 mortgage brokers, mostly unlicensed and unregulated.

So, "we arrived in the bizarre position in which poor people struggling to pay back their mortgages had miraculously produced the world's most secure financial instruments. This was a fortunate conclusion to reach for both the banks which made money issuing the CDOs and the rating agencies which made money assessing them."

Goldman Sachs "went from having to end its status as an investment bank and take federal support, in September 2008, to declaring all-time record profits - with bonuses to match - in July 2009. The bank which would have gone under without government help, and had to borrow $10 billion from the taxpayer, was less than a year later setting aside $16.8 billion in pay, bonuses and benefits for itself."

In sum, it was "a huge unregulated boom in which almost all the upside went directly into private hands, followed by a gigantic bust in which the losses were socialized."

The OECD rates British banks the 44th safest in the world, six places behind Botswana. Canada's banks are the world's safest, because they are regulated, and this has been good for growth - Canada's incomes have risen by 11 per cent a year since 2004.

Lanchester proposes, "The change should be that, if a bank (broadly defined) receives any taxpayers' money, the existing shareholders are (broadly speaking) wiped out." But, as he points out, no laws have been passed to prevent another crash.
27 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Brilliant 23 janvier 2010
Par R. Ward - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This should be required reading for every politician in the world and everyone who ever plans to vote. Lanchester is absolutely right that the world of finance is too much of a mystery to almost everyone. This is a remarkably accessible guide to that world, the people who live in it, and its mystifying laws and practices. A great read. Buy it -- read it -- send it to your friends.

BTW, I read the Kindle edition, which unlike some Kindle books is PROPERLY PROOFREAD. What a relief.
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