No self-help book can be complete without taking into account our relationship with the state. For if there were a cosmic list of things that unite us, reader and writer, visible as it scrolled up and into the distance, like the introduction to some epic science-fiction film, then shining brightly on that list would be the fact that we exist in a financial universe that is subject to massive gravitational pulls from states. States tug at us. States bend us. And, tirelessly, states seek to determine our orbits.

You might therefore assume that the most reliable path to becoming filthy rich is to activate your faster-than-light marketing drive and leap into business nebulas as remote as possible from the state’s imperial economic grip. But you would be wrong. Entrepreneurship in the barbaric wastes furthest from state power is a fraught endeavor, a constant battle, a case of kill or be killed, with little guarantee of success.

No, harnessing the state’s might for personal gain is a much more sensible approach. Two related categories of actor have long understood this. Bureaucrats who wear state uniforms while secretly backing their private interests. And bankers, who wear private uniforms while secretly being backed by the state. You will need the help of both. But, in rising Asia, where bureaucrats lead, bankers tend to follow, and so it is on befriending the right bureaucrat that your continued success critically depends.

You are probably not in a position to know, Doctor…that we are at a crossroads, both in New York and in the country as a whole. This city is changing. Dramatically. Ph, I don’t simply mean the population, with the influx of immigrants. I mean the city itself. Twenty years ago, New York was still primarily a port — the harbor was our chief source of business. Today, with other ports challenging our preeminence, shipping and receiving have been eclipsed by both manufacture and banking. Manufacture, as you know, requires workers, and other, less fortunate, nations in the world have provided them. The leaders of organized labor claim that such workers are treated unfairly here. But fairly or no, they continue to come, because it is better than what they have left behind…We are not obligated to provide everyone who comes to this country with a good life…We are obligated to provide them with a chance to attain that life, through discipline and hard work. That chance is more than they have anywhere else. That is why they keep coming…We shall not be able to offer such a chance, in future, should our national economic development — which is currently in a state of deep crisis — be retarded by foolish political ideas born in the ghettos of Europe…Any events which can be prostituted to serve the purposes of those ideas must be suppressed.

Masters and the rest of the IDM team knew that in the world of swaps, techniques had been found to separate out, as a derivative product, parts of the risk attached to bonds – say, the risk that interest rates would rise and lead a bond’s value to fall. Derivatives traders had been able to sell that risk as a product to investors who were willing to bet that interest rates would not actually rise. The bondholder, with the bank acting as broker, was in effect able to sell the risk of the bond to another, less risk-averse investor. So what would happen, Masters asked herself, if the same principle were applied to the default risk associated with a loan? Doing so would overturn one of the fundamental rules of banking: that default risk is an inevitable liability of the business. If a technique could be developed to package default risk so that it could be traded, that would be an enormous boost for banking in general.