3 out of 4 stars
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Andrew Stevenson has had a long career as a “macro hedge fund portfolio manager, investment banker, and climate risk advisor.” There is no doubt that he has rubbed elbows with some billionaires; he may have even helped make them so. He is, therefore, an authority in talking about how these select members of humankind tick.
In The Billionaires’ Handbook, Andrew pretends to be a billionaire and teaches us how to become one. There is only one main lesson: Do not break the rules. What is the foolproof way to achieve that? Make the rules yourself. Who do you think invented “limited liability”?
The book starts with a whimsical short history of world economics, starting with feudalism, on to mercantilism, then capitalism, and ending with today’s economic policy: cynicism. Andrew goes on to list the thirty rules that billionaires use (Don’t forget that they make the rules!) in this era of cynicism. “Write the tax code” is the first. You can just imagine the other twenty-nine. These rules kept the billionaires happy until 2008 when the housing bubble burst, and some of them grew a conscience. However, recent events transpired that put the billionaires “back on track.” The critical development was the election of a fellow billionaire to the US presidency. A second set of rules, twenty-five of them, was made. One of the new rules is, “Be a dick.”
There is a third set of rules that the narrator-billionaire is proposing. This new set of twenty rules will make him the greatest American of the 21st century. Guess what they are about.
The book is a hard-hitting satire that will make the readers laugh until it hurts; then, they will realize that the book is no laughing matter. A LinkedIn post in 2017 allegedly reported that “the top 0.1% of American households hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%.” It is shocking, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration. I am sure that the greater majority of humanity, the non-billionaires like you and me, will find that the book speaks the truth, though such truth is ugly. Yes, cynicism has become the way of the world. Will we just grin and bear it?
Readers will find the second set of rules curiously familiar as they portray the current US policies on health care, immigration, climate change, and other critical issues. The rules are witty. One of my favorites is “Class dismissed” pertaining to the shrinking American middle class.
The text for each rule is sparse; we are given the rule and a succinct explanation. This is best as each rule is straightforward and inspires deep thought. The accompanying illustrations bolster the messages effectively. Andrew did not identify the illustrator who certainly deserves kudos.
I commend Andrew for his courage in writing this book and the clever way he designed it. It is a parody, but it is downright serious. He uses simple words that are understandable to the common reader. His son Cole helped him with the editing. I’m sure Cole did his best, but he missed a number of run-on sentences, punctuation lapses, and misspellings. Unfortunately, these errors made the book lose one star; it earns 3 out of 4 stars from me.
Andrew’s book is certainly an eye-opener. I believe every responsible citizen of the world would benefit from its lessons. You do not need to be an economist to appreciate it. You certainly need not be a billionaire. The book will be most appropriate for working men and women who want change and are willing to work for it. These are the mature adults who want a better future for their children. Of course, billionaires are also welcome.
The Billionaires’ Handbook
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