Book Bits | 2.01.14

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China
By Stephen Roach
Q&A with author via Yale University Press
Q: How has the U.S. and China’s unbalanced relationship created a false sense of prosperity?
A: Beginning in the late 1990s, the income-strained U.S. economy drew increasing support from the so-called wealth effects of surging asset markets – first from equities, then from residential property and finally from cheap credit. The problem was that each of these asset-dependent underpinnings ended in bubbles – bubbles that ultimately drew support from Chinese purchases of dollar-denominated assets. Washington, Wall Street, and Main Street collectively deluded themselves into thinking this asset-dependent growth was a new recipe for economic prosperity. When the bubbles popped, however, it quickly became apparent that this was a dangerous false prosperity. To the extent that export-led growth in China was dependent on America’s asset and credit bubbles, it, too, went down a path of false prosperity. When the export underpinnings of China’s external demand collapsed in late 2008 in the depths of the Great Crisis, this, in fact, became painfully evident.

Saving the City: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914
By Richard Roberts
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
This book tells the extraordinary, and largely unknown, story of this acute financial crisis that surged over London and around the globe. Drawing on diaries, letters, and memoirs of participants and a wide range of press coverage, as well as government and bank archives, it presents a lively and colourful account of a remarkable episode in financial and social history, outlining the drama of the collapse and the measures taken to contain it. This crucial and compelling ‘missing piece’ in the world’s financial development was the first true global financial crisis, and proved a landmark in the management of financial crises.

The Money Compass: Where Your Money Went and How to Get It Back
By Mark Grimaldi and Stevenson G. Smith
Summary via publisher, Wiley
In The Money Compass, Grimaldi teams up with accounting professor G. Stevenson Smith to offer a wealth of smart investing advice for today’s investor. This plain-English guide to good investing presents practical strategies and actionable advice for safely navigating today’s financial markets. It shows you how to manage credit and debt responsibly, how to use the tax code to your advantage, which kinds of trendy investing advice you should ignore, and where to put your money for solid returns. In addition, the authors explore the hard macroeconomic realities that explain how we got here and where we’re going next. They look at the primary causes and consequences of the recession, the housing crash, the slow collapse of government programs, long-term unemployment, and how it all impacts you and your money. Plus, Grimaldi and Stevenson forecast the next big economic shock and show you how to profit from it.

Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource
By David Sedlak
Review via Kirkus Review
Dividing its history into stages, the author begins 2,500 years ago with Water 1.0. Growing cities, with Rome being the supreme example, built complex pipes and channels to bring in water and carry away sewage—usually not very far. This remained the norm until 19th-century scientists understood that sewage spread disease, especially cholera and typhoid. This led to Water 2.0: treating drinking water, usually with filtration and/or chlorine. Clean drinking water is still considered man’s greatest public health achievement. Sewage continued to pour into rivers and harbors, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that the smell, visible filth and outrage from downstream cities led to Water 3.0: a vast infrastructure of sewage treatment plants. In the second half of the book, Sedlak discusses Water 4.0: technology in the works to deal with (and pay for) water shortages, which are already upon us. Conservation is only modestly effective. Desalinization remains expensive; drinking treated sewage produces horror from laymen and their representatives, but effluent already makes up a large percentage of our rivers and tap water. One possible solution is to abandon centralized systems to treat and recycle wastewater in our homes and neighborhoods. Our electrical and communication infrastructure is relatively cheap and often in the news. Water infrastructure is expensive and lacks enthusiasts, but in Sedlak’s hands, it isn’t boring.

Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming
By McKenzie Funk
Review via Scientific American
Can climate change make for good business? Entrepreneurs all over the world are counting on it, claims journalist Funk in his new book Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming. The effects of a shifting climate, he says, can be divided into melt, drought and deluge (that is, rising sea levels), each of which would mean big paydays for different industries. From companies in Israel using by-products of massive desalination plants to capitalize on ski resorts in need of fake snow, to private firefighters working for California insurance companies, to Dutch architects designing floating cities, Funk’s reporting brings him face-to-face with individuals who are investing in planetary crisis.

The Complete Family Office Handbook: A Guide for Affluent Families and the Advisors Who Serve Them
By Kirby Rosplock
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Although the family office concept is not new, it is a phenomenon that is changing the wealth management landscape. With celebrities and business moguls, investment gurus and family business icons establishing private wealth management advisory firms, more and more individuals are asking what exactly is a family office and how does it operate? Family offices either serve one family exclusively or typically manage the wealth of a number of affluent families. If you’re like most families and advisors, you’re familiar with family offices, but may not know exactly how they work or why the family office is right for you or your clients. Dr. Kirby Rosplock, an expert on the family office concept, provides insights to some of the most common questions and even misperceptions in this handbook.

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