Soros shorts UK
George Soros's dad had no interest in making money. His priority was the enjoyment of life, after having been a prisoner of war in Siberia during World War I - or so Soros fils says in his romp of a new book about the credit crunch (which has the unprepossessing title The New Paradigm for Financial Markets).
When I interviewed the hedge fund pioneer last night, I asked him how and why he acquired his voracious appetite for making money.
"Money counts" he said. It gets you what you want. And if he hadn't made his many billions, he doubted he would have been sitting there being interrogated by me.
Well there's no accounting for taste.
More substantively, Soros has been one of the great philanthropists and political activists of our time - whose voice, thanks to his financial clout, has resonated from the New Europe to not-so-new Washington.
There's also a shambolism about his success and aspirations which is highly engaging.
He doesn't for example deny that his most successful investments have been spawned as much by his backaches - brought on by worry about whether his funds were being astutely invested - as by the application of reason.
The book is a totally compelling, well-ordered stream of consciousness, which - by turns - attempts to demolish neo-classical economics, gives a diary of his recent trading performance, and expounds his own philosophy of social science.
His main argument is that the neoclassical postulate that markets tend to equilibrium is nonsense. He founds this view on what he calls the theory of reflexivity, which broadly says that use of scientific methodology in economics is wholly inappropriate, because economic agents cannot avoid influencing the outcomes they forecast.
Academic economists may sneer. But he has become considerably richer than all of them put together by investing according to his own conviction that markets tend to disequilibrium.
I've written before about how he sees the credit crunch as the end of a 25-year superboom poisonously coupled with the collapse of the US housing bubble.
So I will concentrate here on his current prognostications.
There is of course a problem of his own making in giving weight to these predictions, because he can't dignify them as scientifically accurate forecasts for all the reasons given above.
That said his track record as a money maker means they shouldn't be dismissed out of hand (though some will be uneasy that he talks his own trading positions). In 2007, when he took active control of his funds for the first time in years and put his money where his mouth is, he made a return of more 30% (which is no slouch for someone who says that at the age of 77 he doesn't really know how to use the full gamut of modern financial products and techniques).
Here are a smattering of his views:
1) The US is in for a longer and deeper recession than most professional forecasters expect - and that will ultimately lead to a further weakening in the dollar.
2) Prospects for the UK are poor, because of the fragility of our housing market, our personal indebtedness and our dependence on a financial services sector that is heading for bad times. He fears we could be in a worse mess than the US.
3) The longer-term outlook for China is very uncertain. And he would not be surprised if the developing bubble in Chinese markets ended in a financial crisis, though he thinks such a crisis won't happen for a few years yet (if at all).
So the years of onwards and upwards may be behind us. Which may be a shame for those of us yet to make our first billion (unless we're planning to short more-or-less everything outside of Asia and the Middle East).