Although this book is not a How-To type of book, it is better — it could be a Why-To book for someone who is bright, ambitious and looking for a career in which to make a living.
In Pursuit of Wealth: the Moral Case for Finance should interest any person, especially any young person thinking about a career. Careers in finance include brokerage, commercial and investment banking, corporate finance, hedge funds, private equity firms, venture capitalists, financial planners, public accountants and more. Authors, Yaron Brook and Don Watkins (who’ve written two previous books together), approach finance from a novel point of view: the moral case.
You might exclaim, “Moral case? What does morality have to do with finance?”
To which the correct reply is, “Everything.”
The authors’ idea of morality is not biblical, not about self-sacrifice, and not about rewarding the undeserved. Their view comes from Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
“In Rand’s view, the man who profits thorough productive achievement is doing something moral. He is supporting his own existence and pursuing his own happiness by using his mind to create values – the values that human beings need to live and enjoy life. And this is as true for bankers, traders, and investors as for any other producer.”[i]
Few books before this one have dared to tell the moral story that finance is good.
The book starts with the core functions of finance and explains how finance enriches the world. Finance enables entrepreneurs to offer products, boost their production, and get goods and services to market sooner. Goods and services of all kinds: energy, food, clothing, building materials, computers, phones and countless other values make our lives easier, more productive, and more pleasant – often in ways that we could not even imagine, let alone duplicate.
Finance is a field that you should be able to feel great about while making money. Financiers help entrepreneurs change the world. Their knowledge of markets and money enable them to take risks that average people wouldn’t take. Using capital (money), financiers help inventors, entrepreneurs and investors turn their own ideas into products to make money. As a result, financiers often reap rewards that most people only dream about.
The authors provide a welcome objective look into the historical opposition to finance. The Bible condemns finance. Islam outlaws finance. Finance, even from the Enlightenment to today, has a long history of inarticulate apologists ineptly explaining its importance and meaning to human life.
Bureaucrats and politicians generally consider finance a “necessary evil” at best. They love to regulate finance. Many people despise finance. Others are afraid of finance. Those in the ivory towers of academia and the back rooms of media reporting stigmatize and dismiss finance.
Brooks and Watkins get it right. They say, “We would all be far worse off but for the productive achievements of this maligned and vilified group of individuals.”[ii]
Brooks and Watkins show in clear terms the morality of finance and the vital role finance plays in our modern human life. They also provide an in-depth look at the fallacies of the “inequality” movement and a number of current financial controversies including index funds, insider trading, the so-called taxpayer subsidies of Wall Street, and the killing effect of Dodd-Frank on small business.
There is a fascinating chapter on the cultural stereotype of businessmen as greedy robbers and murderers. A “real-life” example of this cultural stereotype considers Steve Jobs, the productive genius and Bernie Madoff, the self-destructive fraud, as moral equals.
A career in finance rewards those who pursue it with a good living, and for those who pursuit it with a passion, intelligence and devotion, the possibility of an excellent living, even an astounding living.
If you have the skills and interest, and would like a career that has a long history of making human society better on every level (despite what the ivory tower tells you), you could embrace a career in finance with peace of mind, knowing that the need for finance is inescapable and continuing to increase in modern society.
Finance is a career that offers opportunity at every level – so that the person just starting out has the chance to grow into the hero he or she wants to be.
Whether decide to pursue a career in finance or you are already in finance or are in another career entirely, from reading In Pursuit of Wealth: the Moral Case for Finance, you can gain a fresh, exciting vision of the value of finance to the world, a vision to last a lifetime.