Friday, June 17, 2022

Review of Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World without Redemption by Mark C. Taylor

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics
Watch Short Review


“Economic and technological transformations never take place in a vacuum but are closely related to broad cultural changes.  The shift from an industrial to a network economy coincides with the transition form modernism to postmodernism in the arts, architecture, literature, philosophy, and religion.” – Mark C. Taylor, Chapter 1: Paper Trails, Page 28

“Religion, art, and economics are caught in interwoven webs that can never be unraveled.  It is no more possible to understand economics without religion and art than it is to understand religion and art apart from economics.” – Mark C. Taylor, Chapter 3: Figuring Capital, Page 117

“In their long and tangled histories, it is often impossible to know whether money represent God or God represents money.  It is also difficult to be sure whether God and money represent something or “nothin.”  Both religion and financial markets are, after all, confidence games.” – Mark C. Taylor, Chapter 4: Money Matters, Page 122

Economists are influenced by the culture that they come from.  Economic ideas are part of the cultural and religious framework of their era.  A mutual interdependence between culture, religion, and economics that creates a range of ways that people can interact with each other.  With different aspects in either culture, religion, and economics bringing different formations of the interactions.

God and gold function the same in the economy, as they provide a firm foundation that anchor religious, moral, and economic values.  They provide certainty and securities in a world without them.  Crises appear when the foundation disappears.  Religion did not disappear, it was transformed.  God has been transformed into the market, for the market was claimed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  Hard to tell whether religion or markets produce something or nothing, for they are confidence games.  They are beliefs about others, beliefs about potentials, rather than the actual capabilities.  Faith in their foundations.   Confidence games that frequently fall apart under the weight of their reality.  
Markets were transformed by technological changes.  Different strategies were needed to deal with how people interact with the technological changes.  Economic and technological transformations were related to broader cultural changes. Cultural and economic processes had feedback loops, as they are mutually determined.  An example comes from the art world, as the art world changed from being under patronage to supporting themselves with their work, their work has changed.  Their economic situations changed how art is performed. 

To reference the various ways economics is tied to culture, required references to various philosophical, religious, and cultural understandings.  The book can be more difficult to read without a background in these various understandings.  Possible to make different connections with different references, or knowing more details of the references given. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•How are economic ideas tied to culture?
•How did religion influence economics?
•How did culture change to economic needs?
•How did technological change impact economics?
•Why do people want protection from risk?  What was the impact of strategies to limit risk?
•Why are religion and markets referenced as confidence games?

Book Details
Publisher:         The University of Chicago Press
Edition ISBN:  9780226791661
Pages to read:   338
Publication:     2004
1st Edition:      2004
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          4
Overall           3