The Great Reckoning. By James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg. Sidgwick and Jackson; 531pp; £20.
Review by Sir Tom Lucas.
Having worked, since the '70s, with some of the world's leading trend analysts, I was looking forward to The Great Reckoning. Written mainly by James Dale Davidson (founder and chairman of the American National Taxpayers Union) in collaboration with Lord Rees-Mogg (former editor of The Times and now perhaps best known for his weekly column in The Independent), its dust jacket promised even more timely hints about how to protect one's wealth in the face of imminent worldwide depression - and worse - than their broadly similar Blood in the Streets. It was Nathan Meyer Rothschild who said that "The time to buy is when blood is running in the streets".
The Great Reckoning is a weighty book, with 57 pages of appendices, and a 25-page index, among its 500-plus. It has source notes, but no bibliography or reading list as such. There are just six graphs and no maps or diagrams, which is odd considering that the reader is constantly being required to revise his mental maps (of the US and its role in the world, its systems, subsystems and linkages at every level). A few diagrams would certainly have been more helpful than some of the eminent quotes and source references which pepper the text.
As a result, before getting even halfway through, the reader wishes that the book were shorter. He may also wish that he could discern an underlying structure on which to hang the myriad facts and theories.
There are two main themes. The first is a tortuous historical analysis of the decline and fall of once powerful and wealthy nations, whose governments, both national and local, are now overstretched. The category includes the US, according to the authors, and will soon include Japan. Which raises the critical question of who will be left to impede the global spread of international terrorism, of crime, inner-city violence and monetary collapse.
The second theme, unfortunately, skirts round the answers to that question. Instead, it offers an undisguised plug for the authors' monthly newsletter, Strategic Investment, together with hints for personal and corporate survival. The best advice is contained in Chapter 14, headed "The Escape from High Costs", and Chapter 15, "Rational Living in an Age of Crisis". If you trade in the American bond, currency and stock markets, Appendix 1 deals with "Techniques for Hedging Against Economic Crisis". We are told, incidentally, that Strategic Investment is "one of the world's best performing investment newsletters ...". One hopes, in view of the authors' predictions, that it will continue to be.
For me, the most interesting bits were the preface by Rees-Mogg and the two chapters mentioned above. There are 15 chapters in all, many of them with off-putting titles - like "The Information Revolution: The Megapolitics of the Future and the Constitutions of the Past". Incidentally, appendices 3 to 7, which are referenced in the text (they are evidently lists of agencies that will have inventories of property for sale, "vulnerable banks", "safe" places to move to, etc), were missing from my copy. They have presumably been edited out in the UK edition, although they could well be of interest to those who are concerned about the world beyond these shores.
Davidson and Rees-Mogg offer a world view which highlights the threats but, I feel, takes too little account of the opportunities of the 1990s. If quality of life is the ultimate goal, by the way, it is surely wrong to express the "reckoning" merely in financial terms. But take the authors' advice, by all means. Conserve cash whenever possible and borrow this book - or buy the paperback. It will at least make you think about the unthinkable.
Sir Tom Lucas is an industrial strategy consultant.