Makers And Takers: The Rise Of Finance and The Fall Of American Business, by Rana Foroohar
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Crown Business in exchange for an honest review.]
I am probably not the sort of reader who is best equipped to give this book a fair hearing, but I will do my best. On the positive side, this book was immensely easy to read, and managed to provide a look at a lot of reasons in which finance screws over the larger population, many of which are the subjects of my own ironic reflections . It is certainly a left-wing populist book, one that cites Elizabeth Warren and the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement like a believer would quote scripture. Not being generally fond of books that try to pretend as if they are fair-minded and are avoiding the pitfalls of socialism when they disingenuously do precisely that , I found this book to be morally and intellectually dishonest, and so even where I agreed with the author’s crusade against finance and its excesses, I found the author to be slippery and untrustworthy, and that is a fatal flaw in a book that seeks to present social problems and solutions to those problems. Without confidence that the author is a person of integrity, all that remains is reading political propaganda that one is hostile to, and that is not nearly as much fun.
This book is about 300 pages of material divided into an introduction and eleven chapters. The first ten chapters give various aspects of the problem, in the author’s mind, concerning the rise of finance in contemporary American business culture: a history of the rise of the finance, the decline of business under the influence of statistical management, the failures of MBA programs, the rise of shareholder activism, the way even old-fashioned companies emulate financiers, the destructive effects of Wall Street control of commodities and the use of derivatives, what happens when wall street owns Main Street including a great deal of housing properties, the end of retirement, the skewed taxation that benefits financial companies and their various shell games, and the revolving door between public service and lucrative private positions for many in the financial world. The last chapter presents some socialist aims at solving the perceived financial crisis before an acknowledgements section and the usual bibliography and index.
The title of this book, as many readers will likely recognize, seeks to reverse the idea of makers and takers by considering financiers as takers and public and private unionized employees as “makers” of what is useful in society. The author is too intent on scoring political points, making fun of Republicans, and settling scores within left-wing politics by mocking Obama’s Treasury team and engaging on a pro-Hillary Clinton argument to make a fair argument. This book will likely rub any reader the wrong way unless they have already drunk the left-wing kool-aid of the occupy comment, Comrade Warren, and others of their ilk. It is striking, and somewhat disappointing, that when given an easy target to pillory like financial firms and their ways, that the book muffs the job. This book, if it is to be found anywhere in the future other than the discount bins of hipster independent booksellers, is likely to be remembered, if at all, as an example of a book that has a great prose style and miserable tone and content. It is an immense disappointment, a sign of how politics ruins so many areas of our society, including publishing.
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