- Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, seeks a bird’s eye view of the market and the economy.
- To get that perspective, Dalio has been reading works by Henry Kissinger.
- Former secretary of state and diplomat Kissinger is known for books “World Order” and “On China.”
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has built his billion-dollar career on making predictions on companies, the market, and the economy.
To make the right predictions, he needs a bird’s eye view of the world’s financial and geopolitical happenings.
“We are like ants preoccupied with our jobs of carrying crumbs in our minuscule lifetimes instead of having a broader perspective of the big-picture patterns and cycles,” he wrote in a blog post.
In a wide-ranging interview with Insider, Dalio shared that he spends a good amount of his time reading and learning to get the right perspective. Over the years, he’s recommended over a dozen books to read, ranging from works by the Dalai Lama to titles by best-selling financial author Michael Lewis.
So what’s he reading right now?
If you looked at Dalio’s bookshelves, you’d find a number of books by Henry Kissinger, politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as Secretary of State and national security advisor under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
“[Kissinger] is a practitioner. He himself has sat in those shoes for all of those years. He’s not being theoretical. He’s not one of those studies of history. He actually had to be in the middle of it,” Dalio said.
In the world of diplomacy, Kissinger is lauded by many for his policy of “détente,” easing strained relations through conversations, with the then-Soviet Union, and for opening US-China relations. However, others point out his role in controversial national policies such as the US’s support for Pakistan during the Bangladesh War despite an unfolding genocide and helping end the Vietnam War in 1973 despite furthering it as national security advisor for years beforehand.
A complex figure, Kissinger’s writings have been bestsellers and acclaimed by many in diplomacy for offering both an inside view of his decisions under Nixon and Ford and the kind of complexity that Dalio prizes. His writing style can sometimes provide a bird’s eye view of history.
For example, when “World Order” came out, Michiko Kakutani, former Pulitzer-prize winning chief book reviewer of the New York Times, wrote: “At its best, his writing functions like a powerful zoom lens, opening out to give us a panoramic appreciation of larger historical trends and patterns, then zeroing in on small details and anecdotes that vividly illustrate his theories.”
The 2014 bestseller argues that the concept of world order has consistently changed based on which region of the world was the most powerful, and the book seeks to answer how the world can build an international world order in an era of conflict, rapid technological advance, and ideological extremism.
In his second most recent book, “On China,” the diplomat gives an overview of the East Asian country’s history from a foreign policy perspective. It also offers an inside view of what went into Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing in 1972. Its last chapter focuses on China’s future, specifically as it relates to the US.
In it, he warns of potential conflict between the two powers.
“The United States does need to get tough with China. If China has its way, it will keep robbing the United States and American companies of their technology and intellectual property,” he wrote.
Since then, he’s been an even louder advocate for the need to resolve mounting tensions between the US and China, a topic that deeply concerns Dalio.
“We will slide into a situation similar to World War I,” Kissinger warned in a 2020 panel discussion if relations don’t ease.
For Dalio, the former secretary of state’s predictions are deeply informative.
“You don’t get a person who really knows history, and really has lived history as a practical decision maker and is clear and articulate – you don’t get many of those,” Dalio said.