Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers
27 January 2004


Southeast Asia is on the way down but China is in the ascendent. Angola is a fantastic place to invest in commodities. Keep well away from the peso market, but don't buy euros either. Be careful of African diamonds and forget about trying to import from India...

Anything Jim Rogers can't tell you about international investment isn't worth trying to find out. He's been twice around the world - once by motorbike and once by car - visiting stock exchanges and markets in every place he goes, finding out about his prospects of making money there. However, the inexperienced reader must be cautious about his advice.

Certainly no man in the world can possibly know how to make a buck better than Rogers, but his use of certain terms is a little looser than that to which the layman may be accustomed. His grammer is that of the classic right-winger. Rogers' "investment" contributes nothing to the productive base of an economy; his "exploitation" is merely the best way of getting maximum potential out of a resource; his "protectionism" can actually be useful for keeping the populace employed; his "democracy" is a way of ensuring the capitalist elite hold onto power. This system of language is useful for making money with, it would seem.

There are at least two "facts" cited in the book which I know to be untrue, and this calls into question everything else he says. Near the start of the book, and again at the end, he declares that the teaching in schools of indigenous languages such as Gaelic is a ridiculous and unfounded project. While he makes a good case for the idea's economic unsoundness, he seems incapable of considering any possible cultural and other benefits (all of which ultimately lead to economic benefit). This limitation of vision will feed into all his other judgements, so reader beware.

The other obvious falsehood uses a classic elitist tactic to suppress information and colour judgement. Rogers incompletely describes one strategy used by the Malaysian government in the wake of the 1997 Asian crisis, resulting in a negatively biased impression of this strategy. His implication is that the grossly protectionist measure was taken of legislating to prevent foreign investors from recovering their Malaysian investments - but he is careful not to state this explicitly. My understanding of the government's tactic is that an "exit tax" on foreign profits was imposed when investors withdrew their money. This discouraged the sort of panicked investment run that was in large part responsible for the Asian crisis.

The "exit tax" story is that favoured by JE Stiglitz, head of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors. Hazy implications of bad legislation are offered by J Rogers, right-wing quick-investment nation-screwer. It is fairly clear whose word is the more trustworthy in this case.

Adventure Capitalist, therefore, is the most useful book imaginable for the unscrupulous speculator looking to make a quick buck. It's also informative for the cautious reader out to discover a little more about the economics of other nations. However, it is very far from being an authority on or even an accurate view of these same economies. You want to know about international financial speculation? Read Rogers. You want to know about internationa economics? Read Stiglitz.


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