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Theoretical Business

By Craille Maguire Gillies

“Crack a book, you lazy son-of-a-bitch.” _Fez

The likeable fount of slacker wisdom from That ’70s Show never dispensed with business advice, per se, but there’s no disputing his directive. (We’re pretty sure his bookshelf was filled with picture books.) The fall crop from publishers has many Oprah-inspired how-to offerings that are as enticing as an MSG-laced bowl of noodles. Here are two alternatives for those with a reading level higher than a fifth grader.

Predictioneer CropThe Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future
Some people rely on fortune tellers. Others – devotees of game theory [1], for instance – look for something a little more scientific. Like Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s book, the Predictioneer’s Game [2]. The author, a professor of politics at New York University has built a reputation as a kind of Nostradamus [3] by using game theory to explain such political challenges as when Iran will get the bomb [4].

In Predictioneer (the title refers to how you can both predict and engineer an event), he focuses on more pedestrian issues – how to hire a CEO, anticipate corporate fraud, advance your career. However, Predictioneer is more about strategy than self-help.

Can computer algorithms help predict events? Estimates put this game theorist’s success rate at 90 per cent. (A consultant for the CIA, Bueno de Mesquita’s most notable predictions – 12 years before the event – was that China would reclaim Hong Kong.) Which makes us wonder if we’re better off ditching the fortune teller and heading to the bookstore. Or put another way, reading your fortune costs about $25. For another $6, you can buy this book.
Geek level: 9 out of 10

Enough Bull Crop 2Enough Bull: How to Retire Well without the Stock Market, Mutual Funds, or Even an Investment Advisor
First of all, our sympathies to anyone over 48½ who was thinking of retiring even remotely soon – what with the sharp nosedive most investments took (40 per cent was the figure a few people lamented when they checked their statements and then, one assumes, started throwing things).

Those of us in our 20s and 30s also don’t have any money. But then, we didn’t have any to begin with. Chartered accountant and bestselling author David Trahair [5] dangles a tasty carrot in front of we millennials and gen y-ers with Enough Bull [6], a contrarian’s account of how to buy an island in the French Polynesians and spend all day drinking daquiris and reading Infinite Jest [7].

OK, Trahair doesn’t present this exact scenario. He does present some scenarios that are meant to provoke easily provoked investment geeks: Only buy GICs; sock away only 40 per cent of your pre-retirement income, not the 70 per cent most investment advisors suggests; pay down your mortgage before you contribute to RRSPs. Enough Bull is for risk-averse would-be investors, those who don’t want to pay an investment salesperson – ahem, advisor – whose job it is to sell, sell, sell.

Buying GICs may sound so basic that it surely won’t pay off – this is an investment strategy that seems aimed at the slackers among us. But when boomers are seeing the gains of the past 20 years wiped out, this particular carrot looks mighty tasty.
Geek level: 8.5 out of 10. U