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Panic: The Betrayal of Capitalism by Wall Street and Washington

4.8 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0980076363
ISBN-10: 0980076366
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Editorial Reviews


"'Sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, there is going to be a panic in credit markets,' Andy Redleaf, a 50-year-old hedge fund manager, wrote to investors in December [2006]. 'The driver in the credit market panic of 2007 or 2008 will be a sudden...loss of faith in the alchemy of [mortgage] finance as it is currently practiced'....Whitebox Advisors, Mr. Redleaf's family of hedge funds, was not the only one to bet against subprime. But it did so with searing and amusing insight, a trademark of the founder and the firm." --Jenny Anderson, "A Hedge Fund That Saw What Was Coming" - the New York Times

"Has the makings of a classic." -- Robert Shiller, Arthur M. Okun Professor of Economics, Yale University, and author of Irrational Exuberance

"Panic vividly traces the causes of our current economic woes. The authors take you on a tour of pinhead intellectuals, politically protected bankers, and calamitous government policymakers. Panic is vital to understanding how we got here, and how we might get out." --Gil Weinreich, editor, Research Magazine

"The number of true contrarians is very small, and Andy is absolutely one of them." --Michael Harron, managing partner for TMF Capital Management

"Of all the dozens of books written on the financial crisis, Redleaf and Vigilante finally get it right...PANIC is a tour de force!" --Mark Skousen, editor, Forecasts and Strategies

"Brilliant" --Jim McTague, Barron's

"A wonderful indictment" --Jim Grant, Grant's Interest Rate Observer

"Has the makings of a classic." --Robert Shiller, Yale professor of economics who called the housing bubble in 2003

"Searing and amusing insight." --New York Times

From the Inside Flap

What happens when the nation's bankers and regulators become convinced human judgment is passé?

What happens when they abdicate decision making to an algorithm?

And then cram the algorithm with imaginary data because no one has the authority or guts to expose it as nonsense?

ANDREW REDLEAF, founder and CEO of a multibillion-dollar hedge fund and credited by the New York Times with predicting the crisis in surprising detail, and RICHARD VIGILANTE, reveal the Crash of 2008 as the "predictable outcome of an ideology that has dominated the American financial establishment for upwards of forty years."

This "ideology of modern finance" replaced the capitalist's appreciation for free markets as a context for human creativity with the worship of efficient markets as substitutes for that creativity. The capitalist understands free markets as an arena for the contending judgments of free men. The ideologues of modern finance dreamed of efficient markets as a replacement for that judgment and almost a replacement for the men.

Under the influence of contemporary financial theory, bankers and regulators abandoned basic tools of financial analysis and judgment for elaborate, statistically based insurance schemes and a blind faith in the efficiency of modern securities markets.

The result: it became impossible for either executives or regulators to fully understand the financial condition of any great modern bank. Believing that financial systems could transcend the need for human judgment the bankers and regulators combined to create financial institutions with balance sheets no one could judge.

Redleaf and Vigilante guide the reader through the history of the crash with wisdom and wit, presenting a refreshingly commonsense approach to understanding how markets actually work. Panic makes sense of a nonsensical moment in market history and reveals why booms and busts have become so common in recent decades, and what we can do about it.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Richard Vigilante Books (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980076366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980076363
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. W. Cline on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this on a flight because a friend said I had to read it, and I'm glad I have friends like that. Wow. This is like the sequel to the Conspiracy of Fools about the crash of Enron, but broader and deeper in its indictment of the whole banking system and the political cronies of both parties that support it. It reads like the Das Kapital written by entrepreneurs who know all the players and all the financial models and b-school philosophies that led us into the mess, and will keep us there until they are uprooted. It challenges the notions of structured finance, efficient market theory, stock markets as the most perfect markets, diversified portfolio management, public corporations as better than private corporations, the banking system as a free market, whether the relaxation of mortgage "redlining" rules helped blacks, whether the crisis was caused by deregulation, whether home flippers were good for the economy, and whether George W. Bush was a conservative hero. The authors identify two steps the federal government could have taken to avert the brunt of the collapse: publish information about the troubled banks, not hide it; and use the TARP funds to buy up undervalued corporate bonds, not the assets of the bad banks. Some of my favorite quotes: "At the heart of crony capitalism is not corruption, but a skepticism of ideas and the practicality of principle. It is the notion that what is good for one's institutional friends is good for the country." "Bush's initial policy on the crisis was similar to his Iraq policy: create a Green Zone and a Red Zone. Both policies were failures." "In public equity markets, everybody knows nothing." "US home mortgages remained the foundation of the US banking system and thus of the American economy and the dollar itself.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
"Panic," by Andrew Redleaf and Richard Vigilante, is a giant of a book, but its title is very misleading. The book is not at all about how Wall Street and Washington "betrayed" capitalism. It's about how the vast majority of investors, politicians, and bureaucrats fail to understand how markets really work. Most of what we learned about modern portfolio theory has blinded us to some key insights which the authors share. I've been immersed in markets for over 30 years, and I can't remember the last time I read a book or article that made me rethink so many of my deeply-held beliefs.

Are you one of the many that believe in the Efficient Market Hypothesis? In the Capital Asset Pricing Model? Do you agree that, in general, the more risk you assume the greater your reward should be? Do you believe that portfolio diversification is key to managing risk? Do you think that highly liquid markets are by nature efficient? Well, think again. Read the book and discover what you have been missing.

Here are some choice sound bites from the book: "Risk is not the foundation of profit but its most dreaded enemy." "Profit is the payment earned by the exercise of judgment to reduce the risk of an enterprise in an economical way." "Investors are paid for being right, not for the possibility of being wrong." "Diversification is always and everywhere a confession of ignorance." "The preference for public financial markets over all other markets creates a preference for weak ownership over strong." "Both the mortgage crisis and the crash are best understood as the result of government policies that pushed trillions of dollars in assets out of the hands of relatively strong owners and into the hands of weak owners.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most compelling books on investing I have read in a long time and far and away the best overview of the financial meltdown published so far. Redleaf and Vigilante do a superb job of dismantling the reigning paradigms that dominate institutional investing today (from the Efficient Market Theory to Modern Portfolio Theory to the Capital Allocation Portfolio Model)and explain the role these paradigms played in setting the table for the calamity that unfolded the past 3 years. This is must reading for investors and political junkies as well. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans escape the wrath of the authors in their scathing attack of crony capitalists and their crucial role in devastating Main Street America. Investors who don't read this book are taking a knife to a gun fight.
ashby foote
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Tbis book tells the story that Washington and Wall Street don't want you to hear: how the financial crisis was created by misguided government policies and Crony Capitalism, and how the "solutions" to the crisis are only making things worse. Redleaf and Vigilante know what they're talking about - Redleaf predicted the financial crisis back in 2006. Their book is written with insight and style, respecting the reader's inteliigence and explaining often complicated issues in clear terms. The Crony Capitalists want you to think that the financial system is too complex for you to even bother thinking about. Leave it to them, let the experts make all the decisions for you. Redleaf and Vigilante demonstrate how this elitist thinking is what got us in this mess in the first place. It's time for Americans to take back their economy from the elites who have nearly bankrupted it. If enough people read this book before election day 2010, we can save our nation from becoming a banana republic.
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