● The Road to Recovery: How and Why Economic Policy Must Change
By Andrew Smithers
Review via The Financial Times
Although he is about as far from a leftwing populist banker-basher as it is possible to imagine, this book is a startling and authoritative attack on the system of tying executives’ bonuses to the share-price performance of their companies.
For Smithers, the bonus system was the principal cause of the financial crisis, and is now the main reason why the recovery has been so weak. He establishes this claim meticulously, with a plethora of charts, and looks for alternative explanations. (He accepts that greater concentration, or lack of competition, could be an important factor.)
● The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America–and What We Can Do to Stop It
By Thom Hartmann
Interview with author via Democracy Now!
Q: And congratulations on the book today. So, the title is The Crash of 2016. Why 2016?
A: Well, we’re actually in this crash. It really started in 2006 when the housing market started falling apart, just like in 1927 when the housing market fell apart. And that crash lasted for quite some time, as Hoover did nothing. Now we have a situation where it’s not just do nothing. Obama was successful in the first few months of his administration at putting enough of a band-aid on it that they’re holding it back with baling wire and bubble gum. But Bush had hoped—he saw this coming. The Bush administration had hoped that they could wait until November of 2008, so it would be after the elections, so it wouldn’t hurt the Republican candidates. He was unsuccessful. The Obama administration is now—because they’re not doing the real structural change necessary, they’re hoping they can push it off to 2016. And that’s why we chose that date. There’s an enormous amount of effort in our government and in the Fed to try to hold this off until after the elections of 2016. Whether they’re going to be successful or not, I don’t know. It literally could happen next week.
● How Much have Global Problems Cost the World?: A Scorecard from 1900 to 2050
Edited by Bjørn Lomborg
Summary via publisher, Cambridge University Press
How Much have Global Problems Cost the World?: A Scorecard from 1900 to 2050
There are often blanket claims that the world is facing more problems than ever but there is a lack of empirical data to show where things have deteriorated or in fact improved. In this book, some of the world’s leading economists discuss ten problems that have blighted human development, ranging from malnutrition, education, and climate change, to trade barriers and armed conflicts. Costs of the problems are quantified in percent of GDP, giving readers a unique opportunity to understand the development of each problem over the past century and the likely development into the middle of this century, and to compare the size of the challenges. For example: how bad was air pollution in 1900? How has it deteriorated and what about the future? Did climate change cost more than malnutrition in 2010? This pioneering initiative to provide answers to many of these questions will undoubtedly spark debate amongst a wide readership.
● Divine Fury: A History of Genius
By Darrin M. McMahon
Review via BrainPickings.org
“Genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly,” celebrated British novelist Amelia E. Barr wrote in her 9 rules for success in 1901. Indeed, the notion of what genius is and isn’t endures as one of our culture’s greatest fixations. We apply the label of “genius” to everyone from our greatest luminaries to exceptional children’s book editors to our dogs, and we even nickname prestigious cultural awards after it. But what, precisely, is genius? Why was the concept of it born in the first place, where did it begin, how did it evolve, and what does it mean today? That’s precisely what historian Darrin M. McMahon explores in Divine Fury: A History of Genius (public library) — a fascinating, first-of-its-kind chronicle of the evolution of genius as a cultural concept, its permutations across millennia of creative history, and its more recent role as a social equalizer and a double-edged sword of democratization.
● In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade
By Damien Ma and William Adams
Summary via publisher, FT Press
Nearly everything you know about China is wrong! Yes, within a decade, China will have the world’s largest economy. But that is the least important thing to know about China. In this enlightening book, two of the world’s leading China experts turn the conventional wisdom on its head, showing why China’s economic growth will constrain rather than empower it. Pioneering political analyst Damien Ma and global economist Bill Adams reveal why, having 35 years of ferocious economic growth, China’s future will be shaped by the same fundamental reality that has shaped it for millennia: scarcity. Ma and Adams drill deep into Chinese society, illuminating all the scarcities that will limit its power and progress. Beyond scarcities of natural resources and public goods, they illuminate China’s persistent poverties of individual freedoms, cultural appeal, and ideological legitimacy — and the corrosive loss of values and beliefs amongst a growing middle class shackled by a parochial and inflexible political system.