Book Bits | 1 June 2019

The Levelling: What’s Next After Globalization
By Michael O’Sullivan
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs Books)
The world is at a turning point similar to the fall of communism. Then, many focused on the collapse itself, and failed to see that a bigger trend, globalization, was about to take hold. The benefits of globalization–through the freer flow of money, people, ideas, and trade–have been many. But rather than a world that is flat, what has emerged is one of jagged peaks and rough, deep valleys characterized by wealth inequality, indebtedness, political recession, and imbalances across the world’s economies. These peaks and valleys are undergoing what Michael O’Sullivan calls “the levelling”–a major transition in world economics, finance, and power. What’s next is a levelling-out of wealth between poor and rich countries, of power between nations and regions, of political accountability from elites to the people, and of institutional power away from central banks and defunct twentieth-century institutions such as the WTO and the IMF.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
By David Epstein
Review via CBS News
A new book argues that you can be more successful in life if you learn different things and don’t try to be an expert. In “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, author David Epstein says diverse experiences are helpful in business, science, music, parenting and even sports.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning” Monday, Epstein said research by LinkedIn on a half-million members found that one of the best predictors of who would become an executive was the number of different job functions they had worked across within the industry, “which kind of goes against everything we’re told about just ‘pick and stick,'” Epstein said.
He even managed to sway Malcolm Gladwell, who had characterized the importance of putting in 10,000 hours of practice in order to gain proficiency in a particular skill.

The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality
By Katharina Pistor
Review via Law and Political Economy
Katharina Pistor’s new book, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality, deserves to be the essential text of any movement today that concerns itself with law and political economy. It establishes, as its central topic, how fundamental law is to political economy, in the tradition of classical social theory but with a considerable update in light of contemporary affairs. And, more fully than anything else I know, it vindicates the Law and Political Economy intuition that legal intellectuals have something essential to bring to the current and ongoing debate about markets and injustice.

The Antitrust Paradigm: Restoring a Competitive Economy
By Jonathan B. Baker
Review via The Enlightened Economist
The Anti-trust Paradigm: Restoring a Competitive Economy by Jonathan Baker [is] a very lawyerly in style and US-focused book. With that caveat, it’s actually a good overview of the current debate about competition policy, and the Chicago School versus neo-structuralist (aka ‘hipster’) clash going on in the US at the moment. One of its strengths is that it’s pretty even-handed. Although the book argues for sticking with an economics-based anti-trust policy, focused on consumer welfare, it also argues that the Chicago School goes too far beyond this with its set of presumptions (for instance, that vertical mergers are basically always fine, or that false positives preventing mergers that are not anti-competitive are far more costly than false negatives that let anti-competitive mergers go ahead).

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America
By Chris Arnade
Review via The Economist
“Dignity” is “about” inequality in much the same way that James Agee’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”—a seminal study of tenant farmers in Alabama, illustrated with stark photographs by Walker Evans—was “about” the Great Depression. Both works illuminate the reality of political and economic forces that might seem familiar in outline, by showing their effects on ordinary people.
Mr Arnade offers a handy framework for thinking about inequality. People like him are “akin to the kids who sat in the front row”—strivers eager to learn and achieve. Front-row people believe in science, data and progress. They cluster in big cities, often leaving their home towns behind, both for the sake of opportunity or because they felt judged, out of place and hemmed in. They are careerists, often liberal in politics but afflicted by immense blind spots. “We had compassion for those left behind,” Mr Arnade confesses, “but thought that our job was to provide them an opportunity (no matter how small) to get where we were.” That, he discovers, was a patronising mistake: “It didn’t occur to us that what we valued…wasn’t what everyone else wanted.”

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