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Extremely knowledgable, but too repetitive and bitter; not prescriptive
on January 7, 2014
For about 100 of the 250 pages, Allison held my interest steady. I agree in principle with limited government, so understanding his views flowed naturally. Moreover, I found his first-hand accounts of the perils of government regulation -- especially the Clinton Administration's effort to manufacture the existence of racist lending practices that plainly did not exist, as well as the evolution of Fanny/Freddie -- to be both insightful and infuriating, as he obviously intended. His writing is by no means professional, but in earlier parts of the book can be very enjoyable because it is -- for example -- comical, sarcastic, or patronizing. He clearly deserves to write in this tone given his travels on the topic he is discussing.
Had the book been 100 pages, which I think it probably should have, it would have been a remarkable manifesto. Instead, Allison loses any focus on a thesis and resorts to firing a proverbial flamethrower in the direction of any and all government organizations: the Fed, the SEC, FDIC, OTC, etc. His good nature gradually is consumed by bitterness, at which point his playful sarcasm morphs into downright angry condescension. Underscoring this change in tone is the fact that he repeats himself on so many topics so frequently, constantly littering in rejoinders like "as we already discussed" or "as I said earlier." The book deteriorates so badly that by its conclusion, I pictured him telling his story on a bar stool, drunk as hell, yelling at strangers who are unwitting participants in his angry rant.
For me, the biggest miss in the book is that he really offers no viable solution. He spends 80-90% of each chapter belittling the government but offers only brief, incoherent recommendations as antidotes.
I have no doubt that John Allison is a genius and a tremendous financial services executive. Had he had a little more experience writing narrative, or just the patience to construct a viable literary piece of work, I would encourage him to tell his stories more frequently. But as this book sits, I would not recommend it.