"Review: Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of
Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis
chronicles the cold-blooded response of Wall Street to the COVID pandemic. New
York finance journalist Scott Patterson reports how savvy investors used the
devastation of the pandemic to reap billions in profits.
Combining insider access with masterful storytelling, Patterson’s meticulously
researched book tells the tales of the investors, scientists and mathematicians
whose creativity, expertise and risk-taking created financial opportunities out
of a worldwide disaster that killed millions.
is not so much about the rapacious “greed is good” mentality of
the 1980s. In 2021, the prevailing attitude was more like “greed is amoral”,
technical even. As the profits flowed from the COVID disaster, there was little
hint of any ethical quandary. All stops were taken out in the pursuit of profit
The most disconcerting aspect of Patterson’s account is how the men who did
this (they are all men) are generally presented as quite sympathetic, if
flawed, characters. On the one hand, Patterson presents them as unique, each
one something of a stock-market superman. On the other hand, they remain human,
all too human.
Patterson not only renders the work of finance high-flyers as understandable as
possible to the layperson, he makes them relatable as human beings. They were
horrified by the carnage around them, but carried on with the job of buying and
selling stocks and bonds to cash in on the catastrophe.
Chaos kings is the name Patterson gives these people, because they thrive on
disaster, exploiting it to beat the financial markets they play in. Masculinity
comes out in full force as the kings strive to be the best and the smartest, as
if literally vying for position of finance monarch.
They are the “winners” determined to be the biggest dogs in the pack, but
theirs is not a masculinity of brute force. It is that of unbridled free-market
competition. This competition is revealed as an almost infinitely larger
version of the school playground where boys jostle for pole position in
childish games, the consequences of which are far from childish."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics