I just got finishing George Soros’ latest book, The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror. Thanks to my brother for the holiday gift. It’s been my commute reading on the subway to work for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve found it quite enjoyable in that regard – making the trip go by a little bit more quickly (not that I have a terribly long ride, mind you).
First of all, it must be said right off that this is not a book about trading. Soros is most famous in the financial markets for his managing of the Quantum Fund and making a billion shorting the Pound in the 90s when the currency broke from theÂ Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) which was in place then as a precursor to the eventual Euro introduction. While he does mention events like this and others for which he is famous – or notorious, depending on your viewpoint – neither trading nor the markets are the focus of this book.
The Age of Fallibility is at its core as much a philosophical treatise as an exploration of global affairs.Â Soros has a pretty well developed world view and philosophy. His ‘reflexivity’Â approach toÂ events (markets and otherwise) has been expressed in his earlier books, and is further refined in this one. That is the part of the book which will appeal to traders and investors, as it helps to explain how he looks at the larger movement of markets and how predictable patterns of behavior can be seen. For those who like to take a big picture view of things,Â it is definitely something worth reading.
As for the remainder of the book, that is a combination ofÂ explaining open society, exploring global politics, and attackingÂ America’s foreign policy, as the title would imply (though no major global player is left out of the discussion or immune from criticism). If you are an open-minded sort then you will find Soros’ views very interesting. In particular, I found his discussion on the concept of the “war on terror” very interesting.
No matter what you think of Soros or his politics (and many folks rightly or wrongly have a negative view of him), the fact of the matter is the man has a perspective on things few can offer based on his experience operating his various organizations. As such he is definitely someone to whom we should at least listen. If you can do that, I guarantee he’ll have you thinking at several points in the text. If not, then this may not be a book you’ll want to read.
I personally started the book wondering if the arrogance I found in his earlier market focused books would be apparent in this one too, but I found it wasn’t. The style wasÂ very engaging throughoutÂ and what he had to say thought provoking. If that’s what you look for in a current events type of book, then you will like this one, all the more for the fact that though the book was written in 2006, it has enough of a macro scope to it to make the subject matter still quite meaningfulÂ now in 2008.