I had the idea a while ago that I needed to start writing summaries of books I read. Particularly when I read current fantasy trilogies and have to wait at least a year, sometimes many years 🙄 Mr. Rothfuss, in between each installment. Writing these summaries will have many benefits for me:

  • Help me remember past books, especially useful for fantasy. 🤓
  • Help me digest the main points of a book, less important for fantasy, but more so for economics & behavioural psychology books that I read.
  • Improve my writing ability.
    I even started with Daniel H. Pink's When, but promptly lost that post trying to setup Ghost correctly for the 4th time. Maybe I'll go back to it and summarise it again.

While writing my first summary I found I had to flick back through the book and skim read in order to remind myself of the main points of each chapter/part. This wasn't too hard with When as it was quite a simple book. However for something like Black Swan, or Adults in the Room I would be hard pressed to remember all the information by the end of the book. They would be hard to skim, as both are longer books covering denser subject matter. As an improvement to this process I have decided to try and make concise notes on each chapter I read, and then I can use those notes to write the full summary.

So without further ado, my notes on the first chapter of Adults in the Room.

  • Larry Summers (US Economist/Treasury Department) presents Varoufakis with the two types of politicians, insiders and outsiders.
  • Outsiders represent most people in the world, and get to say what they think.
  • Insiders actually have power and make important decisions.
  • Insiders have a sacrosanct rule, never turn on other insiders and never talk to outsiders.
  • Larry is asking Varoufakis if he's willing to become an insider in order to save Greece.
  • Varoufakis describes black boxes, e.g. smartphone, with defined inputs we have expected outputs, but most of us don't know how a smart phone sends a text message. He introduces super black boxes.
  • Super black boxes are so complex and important that no one understands them completely. Examples financial derivatives, large corporations, large organisations (like International Monetary Fund), governments.
  • The important thing to know about super black boxes is that ordinary people have very little control over their inputs (money, debt, taxes, votes), but the outputs dictate our lives in the form of, company profits, economic performance, credit derivatives (crash), and austerity measures imposed for EU bailout packages.
  • These black boxes grow in complexity by creating networks of insiders, for example, when a journalist is given an exclusive by a politician they become an insider, as they can't offend the politician easily, without losing their access to that politician and their black box.
  • He offers a solution to these super black box organisations that he thinks are a threat to democracy:
    1. Recognise we might be a node in the network already.
    2. If we get inside the network we should be willing to expose the information flow within. The more we do this the more we destabilise the network.
    3. Resist replacing old closed networks with new ones.
  • While he was finance minister of Greece, Varoufakis was less interested in exposing the inside of these organisations, his only goal was to get Greece out of its modern day debtors prison*.
  • The Troika (European Council, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund), required Varoufakis, as the finance minister for Greece, to personally sign a new bailout deal in 2015, which he saw as pushing Greece further into debtors prison and refused to do.

*Debtors Prison being something from Dickensian Britain when debtors unable to pay their debts went to jail. Where they had absolutely no chance of paying their debts from prison. As the prisons filled up, eventually capitalists realised they needed to introduce limited liability because debtors prisons didn't reduce the number of bad debts and didn't result in bad debts ever being repaid. This meant that people offering credit were also taking a risk, and had to price their credit accordingly, because their debt was not guaranteed to be repaid. However prior to limited liability, the debt was also not guaranteed, but now the market priced that in and people didn't die in debtors prisons.