Man vs. Markets: Economics Explained (Plain and Simple)

( 1 )


After years of TV and radio coverage, gallons of newsprint ink, and billions of scholarly opinions on the blogosphere, do we really understand the financial engineering that brought the global economy to the brink?

The terms and acronyms that make up the language of economics are enough to cause the layman's head to start spinning: leverage, securitization, futures, options, MBS, CDS, CDO. Luckily, we have veteran journalist Paddy Hirsch—senior producer at APM's Marketplace and ...

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Man vs. Markets: Economics Explained (Plain and Simple)

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After years of TV and radio coverage, gallons of newsprint ink, and billions of scholarly opinions on the blogosphere, do we really understand the financial engineering that brought the global economy to the brink?

The terms and acronyms that make up the language of economics are enough to cause the layman's head to start spinning: leverage, securitization, futures, options, MBS, CDS, CDO. Luckily, we have veteran journalist Paddy Hirsch—senior producer at APM's Marketplace and acknowledged Whiteboard Guru—to help us crack the code. In Man vs. Markets, he proves that it's not impossible to understand what's going on in the glass-and-steel canyons of Wall Street; that most international financial transactions aren't all that different from those taking place every day in stores, in car dealerships, even on the playgrounds of Main Street.

Bonds? They're basically loans. Futures? You probably used one when you ordered your Thanksgiving turkey last year. Options? Ever bought a fully transferable, returnable airline ticket? That's pretty much the same thing.

With a winning combination of acquired wisdom, common sense, market savvy, and an outrageous sense of humor, Hirsch clearly explains and defines the instruments that power our financial system and very nearly caused its demise. Clever, insightful, hugely educational, and always entertaining, Man vs. Markets translates the often confusing language of finance, enabling every one of us to truly comprehend what makes the markets tick.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Our lives are affected by the financial markets on a daily basis, but even with the rise of financial journalism and Internet access to financial information, how markets operate remains a mystery to many average Americans. In his first book Hirsch, journalist and producer of American Public Media’s Marketplace, offers a straightforward, accessible, and often hilarious overview of our financial and economic systems, products, and concepts. Using colorful but simple analogies from daily life to explain complex financial instruments such as derivatives or swaps, Hirsch populates the stories with madeup characters with colorful names and speech patterns. For example, he draws on the tiered benefits of first-class and coach tickets within the airline industry to explain the basics of corporate capital structure and uses an entertaining tale of buying a Thanksgiving turkey to teach options. Organized in manageable chapters, with cartoon illustrations by Dan Archer and callout boxes sprinkled throughout to highlight certain concepts, this helpful, amusing, and engaging beginner’s guide to our financial system is sure to delight and inform readers of all ages who want to understand and navigate the markets. Illus. (Sept.)
Better Investing
“Why can’t more financial books be this fun to read? Man vs. Markets deconstructs economic theory in a way that makes learning more fun than you ever expected.”
“This book is a must-read for the financially under-educated....This inviting text provides a good springboard for investigating more of the frightening world of finance.”
Library Journal
This brisk introduction seeks to elucidate economics using everyday terms and many humorous illustrations by cartoonist Dan Archer. Hirsch (sr. producer, Marketplace) is no stranger to explaining personal finance, and he succeeds in gently elucidating selected basic concepts. That said, his goal appears not to explain all of economics in layperson’s terms but merely the 2008 financial crisis, so Hirsch concentrates on defining only those concepts necessary for this purpose. (All he can probably do, as this format necessarily limits his scope and depth.) Readers will not come away well versed in any of the concepts he defines, but they will find as nonthreatening an introduction to certain financial ideas and jargon as can be found in so light and short a work. Verdict This book is best for readers who either only got halfway through Economics for Dummies because they thought it was too confusing or want the CliffsNotes version of a high school economics class, or who already understand the workings of the financial markets but want some light reading for a plane ride.—Ricardo Laskaris, York Univ. Lib., Toronto

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted

Kirkus Reviews
A cartoon-laced, elementary but not terribly dumbed-down introduction to the dismal science by American Public Media Marketplace producer Hirsch. Anyone seeking to explain the economy, much less economics, in simple language has his or her work cut out, particularly since the natural tendency is to go simpleton-level simple in the face of complexity. Hearts may sink at Hirsch's opener, which posits as a sample enterprise an ice-cream van. An ice-cream van with public shares and derivatives? Fortunately, the author then steers the discussion onto generally more grown-up ground without ever substituting a liquor store as exemplar. Even there, the ideal reader seems to have limited ability to conceive of abstract entities gauged in abstract terms ("It helps to think of the entire market as a body, and the indices like the readings from a thermometer"). In the urge to simplify, Hirsch sometimes glosses over important realities; he tells us what short selling is, for instance, but not how risky and ruinous it can be. Even so, moral hazard--that fine economic concept--is never far away from his discussion of commodity trades, derivatives and securitization, with the dialogue describing the last take on a kind of I've-got-a-bridge-to-sell-you sense of surrealism. While some things resist simplification, others make good sense when reduced to cartoons or cartoonlike textual explanations, as when a banker walks away smiling from a teller's window while an ordinary consumer stalks away fuming, the explanation for which is the discriminatory lending rate of 1 percent for the former and 5 for the latter. Quibbles aside, if this can help those ordinary consumers understand what's happening to their money, this accessible, often entertaining book will serve a valuable purpose.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062196651
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 384,470
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Paddy Hirsch is a senior producer at American Public Media's business radio program, Marketplace. He is the creator of the acclaimed and popular Marketplace Whiteboard, which was a Webby honoree in 2009, and has been featured on network and public broadcast television. He recently completed a Knight Fellowship in Journalism at Stanford University. Hirsch lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction: The Financial Comer Store xi

Chapter 1 Your Piece of the Action: Stocks, Shares, and Equity Trading 1

Chapter 2 Racking It Up: Debt, and Why It's Not Always a Bad Thing 23

Chapter 3 Under the Skin: How a Company Hangs Together 49

Chapter 4 Derivatives: Devilish? Destructive? Deadly? 59

Chapter 5 Your Jell-0 for My Cake: How Swaps Work 71

Chapter 6 The Folding Stuff: Money, and How It Makes Its Way Around the World 87

Chapter 7 The House Always Wins: The Banking System 101

Chapter 8 Loosening the Beltway: The Fed, the Treasury, and How Government Gets Involved 115

Chapter 9 Gimme, Gimme, Gimme: Consumer Debt, Securitization, and Shadow Banking 143

Chapter 10 Architects of Our Own Destruction: Decline and Recovery in the Financial Markets 165

Afterword 193

Index 197

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Customer Reviews

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