Main Takeaways From The Transaction Man



Nicholas Lemann's Transaction Man can be found in the Economics/Politics aisle of a bookstore although it is actually a History book according to the publisher. It is a chronologically organized summary of the 20th and 21st century in the USA.

For anyone interested in how the economy has changed and what choices led to the current system or for anyone who did not study or focus on the subject and is now trying to catch up, this is a perfect read.

There are three main influencers who are responsible for the way the economy is structured today. Adolf Berle is the economist under Roosevelt and Lemann's Institution Man. During this time, the focus was holding corporations accountable with the help of the government. This is also the time period when the graduated corporate tax rate structure was introduced although it actually started taking shape during Hoover's administration.

The Transaction Man, after which the book is titled, is Michael Jensen, a professor at Harvard and the academic father of modern corporate governance. The changes taking shape in this period include major deregulations which led to the mortgage crisis among other effects. According to Jensen, "who you are as a person is nothing more than your word." The push was to make the owners of the big business to think and act more like a shareholder where that person would not only make the decisions but also take responsibility for them. Unfortunately, simply blaming the problems of these years on greed is not a sufficient enough explanation. To understand what and why it happened better, chapters three and four of the book are what you should focus on.

Finally, the Network Man, is the more social media friendly Reid Hoffman, an entrepreneur, investor and a strategist. He is a co-founder of LinkedIn and a partner at Greylock with a personal website which is a very interesting read on its' own. In particular, the six-minute bitcoin rap skit that's on the website as well as YouTube is a must see for the current generation. Hoffman thinks differently in that he organizes the online society "around some fundamental human need" and he taps "into at least one of the seven deadly sins". Although social networking seems like a new concept, it has actually been studied since the 1930s. LinkedIn is supposed to replace corporations. We can only watch and see if it will do so.

One last thing to note is that throughout the book, there is really only one person mentioned who holds an influential role in the economic and financial system. It is Morgan Stanley's Zoe Cruz, its' highest ranking woman.


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