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Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of…

Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation (1999)

by Edward Chancellor

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388727,669 (3.95)8
  1. 10
    This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly by Carmen M. Reinhart (browner56)
    browner56: Two different perspectives on the same economic message: When we forget our financial past--or think that it no longer applies--we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.
  2. 00
    Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises by Charles P. Kindleberger (Jestak)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A good interesting book that was strongest in the first half. The second half, especially the part about "Kamikaze Capitalism" starts to feel a bit bloated and unfocussed, which is very much a pity as there's a lot of gold in there. I had to keep checking the copyright date to confirm that it was, in fact, written a decade before the 2008 financial crisis, as he spends a fair amount of ink on the derivative market and its risk of bringing down the global economy. So it's really a pity that that portion of the book seemed a bit scatterbrained. Still, very much worth the time to read (and the $7 overdue fine I'll be paying for the privilege.) ( )
  Heduanna | Oct 18, 2013 |
A super book - especially when read alongside "This time is different". As Barton Biggs said, " a truly insightful study of speculation and bubbles". The book really gives a sense of the mania and how it was at the time. It also shows that the lessons are never learned and that we will experience speculative bubbles in the future. The author drops a few hints that he is less than enamoured with free capitalism, and this is particularly obvious in the last chapter on hedge funds. It's only a shame he doesn't explicity set out his philosophical position and his reasons for holding it. Overall an entertaining, scholarly wor. Absolutely required reading for anyone involved with investing.
PS I liked the way the author sets out distinctions between investing and speculation in the opening pages!. ( )
  jvgravy | Nov 20, 2010 |
Edward Chancellor carefully searches speculative history from the 17th Century onwards looking for commonality and differences in speculative situations and gives the history and his conclusions in this superb book.
He's not writing with an "agenda" and common themes emerge in a quite natural way from his narrative:

1) Speculation in modern times is closely connected with technological development eg. railways, electricity, automobiles, radio, computers, internet, etc. and this is undoubtedly positive as it directs capital at areas that offer fast increases in productivity.

2) Speculation tends to need a widely publicised "success story" to take off eg. 1767 the Duke of Bridgewater's highly profitable 30 mile canal from the coalmine on his estate at Worsley to the new textile factories at Runcorn, or, in more modern times the shockingly successful 1995 Netscape Communications internet flotation.

3) As a speculative area becomes widely subscribed excitement mounts, profitability declines and an urgent demand for credit (to speculate with) is met by the banks eg. 1720 the City exhausting its possibilities of lending against South Sea Company stock and the South Sea Company itself exhausting the possibilities of lending to its own buyers, or, more recently in 2007, (after this book was written), mortgage backed securities accommodating and extending the great New Millennium property speculation.

4) Late stage speculative booms combined with easy credit and lax government supervision attract a fine collection of opportunists and thieves floating overpriced (or worthless) shares onto a gullible public or issuing valueless bonds, eg. 1998 Yahoo! capitalization = 800 times earnings = $35 million per employee, or 1988 Michael Milken fabricating junk bonds (supposedly only junk in name) to finance the LBO wrecking of perfectly good companies for his and his friends vast profit. As the author says, "...junk bond purchasers taking most of the risk and "takeover entrepreneurs" snaffling most of the rewards."

I can highly recommend this book, especially for the way the author evaluates the interaction between investment and speculation. Is investment a by product of speculation or is speculation a by product of investment? ( )
1 vote Miro | Sep 29, 2009 |
A sobering examination of capitalism run amok ... again and again and again.

http://driftlessareareview.wordpress.com/2009/05/17/book-review-devil-take-the-h... ( )
  kswolff | May 17, 2009 |
Dense book, but interesting. Reads a bit easier than a textbook once you start ignoring the footnotes, of which there are a ton. Gives a thorough overview of a topic covered only in passing by most portfolio theory oriented finance books (e.g. Malkiel's "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" or Bernstein's "The Four Pillars of Investing").

Recommended in today's volatile economy if you're into textbook style non-fiction. ( )
  etimme | Jan 6, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452281806, Paperback)

"The longest bull market in history" is a term that gets used a lot these days. Since 1990, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen some 8,000 points, from around 2,700 in January 1990 to nearly 11,000 today--a boom by anyone's standards, including Edward Chancellor's. In Devil Take the Hindmost, Chancellor takes an entertaining, albeit sobering, look at the history of speculative manias and the mass delusion that surrounds them.

Beginning with the "tulipomania" that gripped Holland in the 1630s, Chancellor chronicles the formations and irrational euphoria that can inflate markets, from shares of South Sea stock in England in the 1720s to real estate in Japan in the late 1980s. He characterizes the speculative spirit as one that

loves freedom, detests cant, and abhors restrictions. From the tulip Colleges of the seventeenth century to the Internet investment clubs of the late twentieth century, speculation has established itself as the most demotic of economic activities. Although profoundly secular, speculation is not simply about greed. The essence of speculation remains a Utopian yearning for freedom and equality which counterbalances the drab rationalistic materialism of the modern economic system with its inevitable inequalities of wealth.
But it's precisely such inevitability that always seems to win out, when "sharply rising prices followed by sudden panic without cause" bring speculative excess to an abrupt end.

Chancellor makes Devil Take the Hindmost especially relevant to today's U.S. investors by using his analysis of past speculative manias as a lens through which to view the current bull-market binge. No matter what his or her current investment outlook is--bull or bear--anyone with capital to invest would do well to spend a thoughtful weekend with this book. Highly recommended. --Harry C. Edwards

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:25 -0400)

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