Book Bits | 14 April 2018

Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?
By Robert Kuttner
Summary via publisher (W.W. Norton)
One of our leading social critics recounts capitalism’s finest hour, and shows us how we might achieve it once again. In the past few decades, the wages of most workers have stagnated, even as productivity increased. Social supports have been cut, while corporations have achieved record profits. Downward mobility has produced political backlash. What is going on? Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? argues that neither trade nor immigration nor technological change is responsible for the harm to workers’ prospects. According to Robert Kuttner, global capitalism is to blame. By limiting workers’ rights, liberating bankers, allowing corporations to evade taxation, and preventing nations from assuring economic security, raw capitalism strikes at the very foundation of a healthy democracy.

Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution
By Priya Satia
Review via The New York Times
Adam Smith, in his classic “The Wealth of Nations,” was an early proponent of the now mainstream view that wars are unfortunate accidents that have “crowded out” more productive investments.
In “Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution,” the Stanford history professor Priya Satia aims to overturn this conventional wisdom about the role of guns specifically, and war and conquest more generally, in the world’s economic development.

The Trust Mandate: The behavioural science behind how asset managers REALLY win and keep clients
By Herman Brodie and Klaus Harnack
Summary via publisher (Harriman House)
This groundbreaking new book answers an essential question: why is it that a fund client selects, or an investment consultant recommends, one asset manager over another when the two are, on paper at least, very similar? Also, why is it that some asset managers maintain their mandates during difficult periods in the cycle and others don’t, even though their performances are identical? Authors Herman Brodie and Klaus Harnack investigated the drivers of these selection decisions and uncovered that so-called ‘soft’ factors play the primary role – even more so for consultants than for end-clients. They also discovered that these soft factors are essentially the means clients use to judge an asset manager’s benevolent intentions, one of the two dimensions of the universal human evaluation more commonly known as trust.

Retirement Fail:
The 9 Reasons People Flunk Post-Work Life and How to Ace Your Own

By Greg Sullivan
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Every day, people just like you, people who have worked hard and saved carefully for retirement, make decisions that will eventually crack their nest egg. Just because you added to your 401(k) or IRA plan every year, invested wisely, and amassed significant savings, you are not necessarily home free. Ready or not, your decisions all along the retirement path can positively or negatively affect your financial future. In Retirement Fail, top financial advisor Greg Sullivan shares the insights he has gained over his thirty-five-year career in wealth management to help you identify potential pitfalls and learn how to safeguard your hard-earned retirement assets. Because, contrary to what most people think, it is not poor portfolio performance that usually busts your retirement accounts. Rather, it’s the emotional decisions you make that can cause major problems.

Superbugs: An Arms Race against Bacteria
By William Hall, et al.
Summary via publisher (Harvard University Press)
Antibiotics are powerful drugs that can prevent and treat infections, but they are becoming less effective as a result of drug resistance. Resistance develops because the bacteria that antibiotics target can evolve ways to defend themselves against these drugs. When antibiotics fail, there is very little else to prevent an infection from spreading. Unnecessary use of antibiotics in both humans and animals accelerates the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, with potentially catastrophic personal and global consequences. Our best defenses against infectious disease could cease to work, surgical procedures would become deadly, and we might return to a world where even small cuts are life-threatening. The problem of drug resistance already kills over one million people across the world every year and has huge economic costs. Without action, this problem will become significantly worse.

Turbulent Empires: A History of Global Capitalism since 1945
By Mike Mason
Summary via publisher (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
As Europe rebuilt after the devastation of the Second World War, the former colonies of the major imperial powers sought their independence at the same time that the United States extended its economic and political power globally. In Turbulent Empires Mike Mason analyzes the struggles for post-colonial sovereignty and economic domination and how these competing forces led to conflicts and shifting alliances around the postwar world.

2 thoughts on “Book Bits | 14 April 2018

  1. Forest Felvey

    “Because of the success of science, there is, I think, a kind of pseudoscience.

    Social science is an example of a science which is not a science; they don’t do [things] scientifically, they follow the forms—or you gather data, you do so-and-so and so forth but they don’t get any laws, they haven’t found out anything.”

    “There’s all kinds of myths and pseudoscience all over the place.
    I may be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things, but I don’t think I’m wrong.
    You see, I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to get to really know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself.

    I know what it means to know something, and therefore I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it, they haven’t done the work necessary, haven’t done the checks necessary, haven’t done the care necessary.

    I have a great suspicion that they don’t know, that this stuff is wrong,
    and they’re intimidating people.” Richard Feynman – Physicist

    Several of the books on this week’s Book Bits list are unprovable pseudoscience. The nature of the list worries me because the mission of this blog is objective – Investing, Asset Allocation, Economics & The Search For The Bottom Line

  2. James Picerno Post author

    Forest, fear not — this week’s list is simply a reflection of the latest titles that have been published. There’s no pseudoscience conspiracy here. Skeptical? That’s easily remedied: look at the Book Bits columns, which appear on Saturdays, over the past couple of months? See a trend or conspiracy in the list of titles? I don’t either. Rest easy. It’s only the publishing list du jour.
    –JP

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