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In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington Paperback – September 7, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"As Secretary of the Treasury, Bob Rubin ranked with the best.  This drama-packed account of his years on the job should be read by all who are interested in what happens when politics and economics intersect."
-Warren Buffett

"Robert Rubin in one of the most brilliant and honorable wise men of our era, and he has produced an extraordinary book. It is both fascinating and readable. With charming candor and a wealth of lessons, it provides an exciting account of his life on Wall Street
and of his tenure as the presidential adviser and Treasury Secretary. But it is also a very personal book filled with tales and insights about his relationships with such key players as Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers and President Bill Clinton. This is destined to be one of the most important books, as well as one of the most enjoyable and enlightening, published in our time."
-Walter Isaacson

"Bob Rubin takes us behind the closed doors and into the nerve center of Wall Street, the White House and the Treasury Department during a historic time in the global economy. It's a fascinating and highly instructive tale told by a man who is uniquely qualified to guide us through these monumental political and economic challenges."
-Tom Brokaw

"Robert Rubin served with distinction as Secretary of Treasury during a period of turbulence in international financial markets. He has now written an engrossing and thoughtful book about his experiences. Even those who do not agree with some of his conclusions, will find this important reading."
-Henry Kissinger

"When historians look back on the 1990s, they will almost certainly ask how the greatest economic expansion in American history happened. Robert Rubin's forthright and fascinating memoir will be the place to begin. With the meticulousness of a scholar and an appealing lack of vanity, Rubin has written the kind of book that important figures in history should write but seldom do."
-Michael Beschloss

From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Robert Rubin was sworn in as the seventieth U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in January 1995 in a brisk ceremony attended only by his wife and a few colleagues. As soon as the ceremony was over, he began an emergency meeting with President Bill Clinton on the financial crisis in Mexico. This was not only a harbinger of things to come during what would prove to be a rocky period in the global economy; it also captured the essence of Rubin himself--short on formality, quick to get into the nitty-gritty.
From his early years in the storied arbitrage department at Goldman Sachs to his current position as chairman of the executive committee of Citigroup, Robert Rubin has been a major figure at the center of the American financial system. He was a key player in the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. With In an Uncertain World, Rubin offers a shrewd, keen analysis of some of the most important events in recent American history and presents a clear, consistent approach to thinking about markets and dealing with the new risks of the global economy.
Rubin's fundamental philosophy is that nothing is provably certain. Probabilistic thinking has guided his career in both business and government. We see that discipline at work in meetings with President Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Chinese premier Zhu Rongji, Alan Greenspan, Lawrence Summers, Newt Gingrich, Sanford Weill, and the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. We see Rubin apply it time and again while facing financial crises in Asia, Russia, and Brazil; the federal government shutdown; the rise and fall of the stock market; the challenges of the post-September 11 world; the ongoing struggle over fiscal policy; and many other momentouseconomic and political events.
With a compelling and candid voice and a sharp eye for detail, Rubin portrays the daily life of the White House-confronting matters both mighty and mundane--as astutely as he examines the challenges that lie ahead for the nation. Part political memoir, part prescriptive economic analysis, and part personal look at business problems, In an Uncertain World is a deep examination of Washington and Wall Street by a figure who for three decades has been at the center of both worlds.

"From the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375757309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375757303
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAME on December 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edit of 22 Sep 08 to recognize that Rubin did not bail out Mexico, he bailed out Wall Street, and Paulson is about to rip the heart out of every American taxpayer in the boldest and most insane national treasury rip-off anyone on this planet could conceive of....we don't need a Wall Street bail-out, we need a complete recall of both the Executive and the Legislative leaderships--a fresh start. These pigs have destroyed the nation--see my new book, free online from 24 Sep, ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig.

Edit of 21 Dec 07 to recommend update and reissuance in collaboration with John Bogle, author of The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions - and What to Do About It and a few others whose books are linked below.

Rubin is self-effacing and not at all, in any way, claiming personal credit for how well it went as America experienced one of its greatest economic booms, despite some rather scary international threats to our economic security. I believe this will be a classic reference for years to come.

1) Early on, and then throughout the book, Rubin does a fine job of documenting and explaining why markets, which are relatively autonomous beasts, and at least as important as governments and government policies, in setting the economic security environment.

2) A corollary to the above, but all the more important because it dovetails precisely with Henry Kissinger's caution ("Does America Need a Foreign Policy"), is Rubin's detailed articulation of how U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers have mentioned, Rubin spends much of this book detailing the struggles of dealing with the "global economy" with his pals, Greenspan and Summers. Rubin also makes it clear that he feels current economic policy is undisciplined and unsound.
While these issues make up the bulk of the book and are surely why it was written, I was most engaged by Rubin's philosophies on keeping work pressures in perspective ("if you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs...") and on the imminent threat posed by the developed world's continued apathy toward the impoverished.
Will you enjoy this book more if you agree with Rubin's ideas about economic policy? Yes. Can you find in this book interesting takeways that will give pause for thought if you don't? Yes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As someone who's had the chance to walk through the storied trading floors of the arbitrage division of Goldman Sachs in Manhattan, I was excited to read this book about someone who began his amazing career there. Anyone interested in investing, domestic and international finance and economics, and politics should read this book. Why?
Mr. Rubin was vital in the formation of Clintonomics--a set of policies that stressed the importance of deficit reduction. Although politically vilified for "raising taxes," Mr. Rubin's platform of deficit reduction was associated with remarkable productivity and economic growth in the 1990's. Mr. Rubin's account is especially timely and thought provoking considering the recent deficits incurred by the U.S. government, the historically low interest rates that are nevertheless present in America, and the 12 billion dollar bet on foreigns currencies recently placed by Berkshire Hathaway.
As someone who has visited and invested (with very mixed results!) in developing countries, I was also interested in Mr. Rubin's accounts of how and why he, Clinton, and others at institutions like the IMF created multi-billion dollar rescue loans to these nations. The conflicts of interest between investors, the borrowers, and the loaners is fascinating to contemplate. It is also instructive to consider why some rescue packages (designed for Indonesia) failed while others (designed for Mexico) succeeded. While recounting these stories Mr. Rubin does an admirable job explaining why lowering tarrifs and expanding global trade with emerging markets is a win-win situation for all parties involved.
For an even better explanation of the underlying principles of international finance read "Economics in One Easy Lesson" by Hazlett. It sounds like a children's book, but the clarity of explanation of complex ideas in this book is amazing.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Rubin, in recounting his years on Wall Street and years in the White House has provided an excellent description of the politics of money, no matter where you are. Rubin recounts his 26 years at Goldman Sachs and describes how the company rose to great stature. He then goes on to describe some of the difficulties that they encountered. In large part, because of politics, not the Washington politics, but office politics. This part of the story was fascinating and Rubin even manages to make something like arbitrage somewhat understandable to the average reader.
The real meat of the story comes when he moves to Washington to work in the Clinton administration. Rubin describes the problems that he and the administration faced in trying to deal with specific financial crises around the world and the difficulty of solving those crises in a political environment that is filled with ad hominem attacks. His central theme is that of an internationalist, the United States must work to promote solid economic systems around the world because it is in our best interests to do so. If we simply sit by and let things happen, the repurcussions will come back to haunt us.
There are several examples that Rubin utilizes to make his point, from Mexico to Russia to Indonesia, he highlights the various economic problems that he encountered as secretary of the treasury. The descriptions he provides of the solutions point to the fact that not all nations can simply pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and make it on their own. Sometimes assistance is necessary. In making this case, he also makes a strong case for both the IMF and the World Bank.
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