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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of popular perception of scandals on Wall Street
Steve Fraser writes in clear, vivid, and energetic prose. His passion for the story he tells is easy to see on every page of this big book. It moves along and keeps the reader turning pages to see what happens next. That really is not all that easy to pull off in writing history.

"Every Man a Speculator" is subtitled "A History of Wall Street in American...
Published on February 17, 2005 by Craig Matteson

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10 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Erudite But Less Than Compelling
Regrettably one of the more unreadable tomes about Wall Street, "Every Man A Speculator" comes up as dry as a professor's rambling essay, as unyielding as a sermon, but with relevance much harder to discern. The book is laden with--one might say overly reliant upon--quotes and convoluted, often pedantic sentence structures. It is admittedly informative at turns, at...
Published on December 28, 2005 by Don Spano


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of popular perception of scandals on Wall Street, February 17, 2005
Steve Fraser writes in clear, vivid, and energetic prose. His passion for the story he tells is easy to see on every page of this big book. It moves along and keeps the reader turning pages to see what happens next. That really is not all that easy to pull off in writing history.

"Every Man a Speculator" is subtitled "A History of Wall Street in American Life". Some subtitles are throwaways. However, this subtitle actually tells you more about the focus of the book than the main title. This is more about the history of public perception of Wall Street. Mr. Fraser is especially strong in telling us about novels, plays, magazine series, and eventually about movies and other popular notions about Wall Street.

The book does not provide any analysis of how Wall Street works and seems to casually dismiss academic models as simply intellectual opinions rather than providing analysis of their merits or deficiencies. The book focuses on so many scandals over the centuries and the characters that caused them that the reader would be hard pressed to understand that anything other than bad actors and suckers ever bought or sold anything in the financial markets. This is, of course, not true. But since the focus of the book is more about the perception of Wall Street in American life, well, maybe there is more merit in the approach taken here.

However, I think the modern reader could benefit from a deeper and more considered approach. This book can certainly stand as a needed corrective for all the rah-rah boosterism that Wall Street has received for the past couple of decades. However, six hundred pages of one perp-walk after another can distort reality as well, no matter how much fun scandal and malfeasance-meeting-comeuppance can be.

The book also suffers from the occasional lapse in accuracy as well. For example, on page 309 he recounts the old canard about James Hazen Hyde charging his sumptuous "French Ball" to the Equitable and letting the shareholders pay for it. Yet, just last year Pamela Beard's "After the Ball" (also a HarperCollins book) demonstrated clearly that this charge is false and made up by the men who were trying to wrest control of the Equitable from Hyde. The author also seems awfully focused on J P Morgan, who was supremely influential, but I am not sure he deserves the opprobrium showered on him here. Nor does J D Rockefeller deserve as little attention as he received here.

Anyway, this was a fun read and offered some colorful anecdotes as well as some insights into the literary influence of Wall Street that I did not know anything about.

If your politics lean to the left a bit you will almost certainly enjoy this book even more. It seems to me that if the adults I knew when I was a child were to read this book, given their devotion to the New Deal and their suspicion of all bankers and investments, that they would have agreed with everything bound between the covers of this book.

Four stars because in my rating system I think it would be enjoyed more by those already interested in this topic than a broad general readership.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cultural Look at America's Wall Street Relationship, March 16, 2005
By 
Craig L. Howe (Darien, CT United States) - See all my reviews
In July, 1849, the arrest of a local confidence man attracted national media attention.

It seems the con artist, one William Thompson, genteelly dressed would approach his marks discreetly flashing a handful of cash. He would confide to the mark that he intended to invest the bundle in a sure fire business deal. He offered to invest the mark's cash in the same deal if he would demonstrate confidence in the deal by pleading his money and gold watch. Thompson promised to return the next day with the watch and even more cash.

Of course, he never did.

Throughout history, Americans have held ambivalent views of Wall Street. One moment they see it as one huge casino. The next, they see it as a cloister of scholarly seers who possess a mystical secret for instant success.

Steve Fraser has written a Wall Street history that explores that dilemma's impact on the American psyche. Americans remain preoccupied with the sins and virtues of the financial markets. On one hand they remain committed to their ancestral values of hard work, play, equality, well-being and national purpose. Yet, they are still magnetically drawn to promises of instant wealth and success.

This well-written, thoroughly researched history explores this chronic tension. Through the colorful tales of confidence men and aristocrats, he offers the reader unique insights into our collective view of American Capitalism and its changing culture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History of Wall Street Most Notable for Its Exquisite Detail, Breadth and Coverage of America's Early Years., January 17, 2009
This review is from: Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (P.S.) (Paperback)
Mr. Fraser has written a detailed and intimately researched tomb covering the history of Wall Street back to its earliest beginnings. This book is similar in theme to Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (Wiley Investment Classics), Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation, andExtraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

Here is what distinguishes Mr. Fraser's book:

- The focus on solely the American Experience, as opposed to including European.

- The period of history covered is much greater than the others. Mr. Fraser begins with a great tale of Alexander Hamiton and Thomas Jefferson. I found this especially valuable and unique.

- A broad focus. The author focuses not only on the financial, but on how Wall Street influenced the arts, popular culture, politics, et al.

I recommend this book if you want a broad, in-depth history of Wall Street. It is the best I have found in covering the pre-1900 period of American finance.

Because the book is a history, it compresses hundreds of years as you read it in a few hours. This allows one to see the boom/bust cycles of Wall Street with clinical detachment. If only we could apply this 20/20 vision to our own period of history!
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars matchless, July 12, 2005
By 
pluto "adamnotsmith" (west palm beach, fl United States) - See all my reviews
A person can spend a lifetime attempting to understand the world of finance. Or he can read this book. It puts into perspective all the sludge oozing out of CNBC, Greenspan, Snow and Company, Kudlow and Cramer and, of course, the Mary Meekers who have begun to surface again after, I suppose, a four year vacation on a private island. For those of boundless faith and small capital, it provides a healthy dose of sanity. If you are victimized by excessive wealth and thus forced to protect it by what is called investment but amounts to speculation, read this one along with The Death of Money, by Kurtzman.

In the world of limitless electronic money, the price of any asset is determined solely by crowd psychology. Every time it changes those numbers on the screen go up and down, and for people buying at the asked and selling at the bid it is a tough game.

For those worried about the country as a whole, Fraser explains in language anyone can understand how enterprise has become a bubble on a tide of speculation, returning us to a condition not experienced in America since the Twenties. The same tired arguments for Wall Street hegemony which history exploded in the Thirties have been resurrected by the financial elite and their acolytes in the media and economics profession. Will history repeat itself? Recent crashes have been reversible by massive injections of fiat money. In the absence of political will it is hard to imagine alternative solutions.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars-Shows that the central problem of economics is minimizing and reducing speculation, January 15, 2009
By 
Michael Emmett Brady "mandmbrady" (Bellflower, California ,United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (P.S.) (Paperback)
The author has done an excellent job showing the inevitable negative impacts that result from speculative behavior.He also shows that a fundamental error made by economists is to confuse enterprise and entrepreneurship with speculation.The idea that speculative behavior is entrepreneurial in nature is the basic error that lies at the heart of both the libertarian-Austrian school of economics(Ayn Rand,Murray Rothbard,Ludwig von Mises,etc.) and the University of Chicago economics approach(Milton Friedman, Robert Lucas,George Stigler,Gary Becker,etc.).This fallacious belief is then propounded by pseudo conservative Libertarian organizations ,like the Olin,Heritage, and Mellon Foundations ,and the American Enterprise Institute,to be an example of free enterprise.The foundation for these misbeliefs is called the Efficient Market Hypothesis(EMH).This hypothesis only holds when applied to consumption goods markets.There is not a shred of evidence,historical or statistical, that the EMH applies to investment markets or financial markets over time.The EMH is based on the empirically refuted claim that all of the time series data for price changes in financial markets can be modeled as being normally distributed.Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated in the late 1950's that the financial market time series data is not even close to being approximately normally distributed.There has not been a single goodness of fit test provided by EMH adherents (Milton Friedman,Robert Lucas,Arthur Laffer,Eugene Fama)over the last 120 years that demonstrates normality.Empirical work overwhelmingly shows that the time series data is best modeled by the Cauchy Distribution.Friedman's Ptolomaic-like belief in the EMH explains his claims that all bubbles are rational(i.e.,there is no such thing as a speculative bubble)and the following assertion, quoted on p.540 by the author: "Speculation has come of age;it can sit quite comfortably side by side with investment;and it is as legitimate and necessary as the securities markets themselves ". This is an excellent demonstration of the confusion one finds in the economics profession concerning investment in long run,long lived,durable physical capital
formation, aimed at producing goods/services for a possible future economic profit and short run ,banker financed, debt leveraged financial speculation aimed at extracting an economic profit without the production of any good or service.I have deducted 1/2 of a star from this book because the author ,unfortunately,has no discussion of the EMH in the book.

The author does demonstrate that J M Keynes had correctly showed that the basic problem accounting for major downturns in economic behavior was speculation(pp.457-458).Keynes proved this on pp.304-306 of chapter 21 of his General Theory(1936).However,he overlooks the far,far more extensive demonstration made by Adam Smith, in his The Wealth of Nations(1776),that banker financed speculation will always lead to the waste and destruction of the savings of the depositors(See pp.260-340,Modern Library(Cannan)edition,Max Lerner Introduction).Smith demonstrated that the primary responsibility of a central bank is to control the private commercial banking system so as to prevent them from lending to speculators or engaging in speculative behavior themselves. The author shows that President Andrew Jackson never absorbed this lesson.Unfortunately,Jackson,while a major opponent of speculative behavior himself,failed to put aside his personal grudge/disagreement with Nicholas Biddle,the patrician head of the Second Bank of the United States,who was trying to stop the massive speculative behavior of the state "Wild catter" banks,and prevented the banks charter from being renewed in 1836.This lead to one episode after another of banker financed speculative behavior that was supposed to be controlled with the formation of the Federal Reserve System(FRS) in 1913.Unfortunately,the private commercial banks have dominated the FRS,except in the time period of 1938-1952.

The author provides overwhelming historical evidence that every single speculative wave of financing in every country in history over the last 400 years ends up leading to a panic,crash,and economic collapse that leads to a recession or depression.He overlooks one individual who should have been included in his discussions of famous speculators who caused economy wide collapse-Andrew Dexter,Jr.,who, working out of Boston in the 1806-1808 time period,single handily created a depression all along the Eastern Seaboard during 1809-10.Dexter is important because he realized the best way to finance speculative behavior was through the control of banks .

Overall,this is an excellent history of what has happened in the past,not only in the USA but worldwide, over the last 400 years, when speculators,masquerading under the false claim that they are engaging in free enterprise in free markets,are able to engage in leveraging their debt positions a 100 fold and sell many different types of very dubious 'financial services' to an unwary public that ,unfortunately,periodically "buys in" to the speculator serenade that this time ,it will be different and the bubble will go on expanding indefinitely into the future.Americans are now going to have to pay a horrible price for allowing the banker speculators and private equity firms to put their schemes across over the last 30 years.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!, May 23, 2005
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One of the best books you could possibly buy. Engrossing, interesting and a real epic work in my opinion. I am a professor of economics and this filled in a lot of missing pieces concerning economics, politics, culture, and history. Starts from the Revolution, and goes right to the present. I dog-eared many pages!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, January 27, 2015
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This review is from: Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (P.S.) (Paperback)
very good value, thanks.
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10 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Erudite But Less Than Compelling, December 28, 2005
By 
Don Spano (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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Regrettably one of the more unreadable tomes about Wall Street, "Every Man A Speculator" comes up as dry as a professor's rambling essay, as unyielding as a sermon, but with relevance much harder to discern. The book is laden with--one might say overly reliant upon--quotes and convoluted, often pedantic sentence structures. It is admittedly informative at turns, at times socially insightful, but with no joy in its reading. It compels as a reference manual would, but that's not why we read.
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11 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why Was This Book Written?, August 21, 2005
Every once in a while I come across a book that begs the question: why was this book ever written? Steve Fraser's "Every Man A Speculator" is one such book. While it purports to explain the impact of Wall Street in American life, it never reaches this lofty plateau. It is a regurgitation of stories told about Wall Street figures, stories told by other people much better. It assumes you already know what Wall Street consists of and the difference between what Wall Street actually is and what people assume is Wall Street. I won't go into what I had hoped this book would be and failed utterly at because that would be unfair. Let's just say that the research behind this book is second rate and that there is no analysis whatsoever. In fact, there is nothing new whatsoever in this book.
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Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (P.S.)
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