Review: ‘Skin in the Game:’ A provocative and practical book

The book is part of Taleb's multi-volume essay on uncertainty, titled the “Incerto.”
Updated 09 April 2018
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Review: ‘Skin in the Game:’ A provocative and practical book

BEIRUT: Irreverent, nonconventional and mysterious, Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a controversial, but gifted thinker. Earlier this year, he published “Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life,” his fifth book in a collection of works including the best-selling book, “The Black Swan” (2007).
The book is part of Taleb’s multi-volume essay on uncertainty, titled the “Incerto.” The collection also includes “Fooled by Randomness” (2001), “The Black Swan” (2007–2010), “The Bed of Procrustes” (2010–2016) and “Antifragile” (2012). The books are a reflection on luck and decision making expressed in a unique manner — a fusion of autobiographical sections, philosophical tales, historical and scientific commentaries in non-overlapping volumes that can be read in any order.
In the latest book, he refers to having “skin in the game,” the process of having incurred risk by being involved in achieving a goal. The term was coined by American business mogul Warren Buffet and refers to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running.
Taleb began his career as a financial options trader and then worked as a quantitative analyst and managed his own investment firm until 2004 when he retired from trading. Besides being a fulltime author, a mathematical researcher and a philosophical essayist, he is presently a professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.
In his book, Taleb shows that having skin in the game is important in all aspects of our lives.
Citizens, artisans, police officers, fishermen, political activists and entrepreneurs all have skin in the game, but corporate executives, most academics, journalists and bankers do not — or so goes the premise of the book.
Taleb cites examples ranging from Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump and shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an essential attribute of successful people in all walks of life.


What We Are Reading Today: Reading Machiavelli

Updated 19 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Reading Machiavelli

Author: John P. McCormick

To what extent was Machiavelli a “Machiavellian”? Was he an amoral adviser of tyranny or a stalwart partisan of liberty? A neutral technician of power politics or a devout Italian patriot? A reviver of pagan virtue or initiator of modern nihilism? Reading Machiavelli answers these questions through original interpretations of Niccolò Machiavelli’s three major political works— The Prince, Discourses, and Florentine Histories— and demonstrates that a radically democratic populism seeded the Florentine’s scandalous writings. John McCormick challenges the misguided understandings of Machiavelli set forth by prominent thinkers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and representatives of the Straussian and Cambridge schools.
McCormick emphasizes the fundamental, often unacknowledged elements of a vibrant Machiavellian politics: The utility of vigorous class conflict between elites and common citizens for virtuous democratic republics, the necessity of political and economic equality for genuine civic liberty, and the indispensability of religious tropes for the exercise of effective popular judgment.
Interrogating the established reception of Machiavelli’s work by such readers as Rousseau, Leo Strauss, Quentin Skinner, and J.G.A. Pocock, McCormick exposes what was effectively an elite conspiracy to suppress the Florentine’s contentious, egalitarian politics. In recovering the too-long-concealed quality of Machiavelli’s populism, this book acts as a Machiavellian critique of Machiavelli scholarship.
Advancing fresh renderings of works by Machiavelli while demonstrating how they have been misread previously, Reading Machiavelli presents a new outlook for how politics should be conceptualized and practiced.