Book Bits | 2.9.13

The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World
By Kishore Mahbubani
Summary via publisher, Public Affairs
The twenty-first century has seen a rise in the global middle class that brings an unprecedented convergence of interests and perceptions, cultures and values. Kishore Mahbubani is optimistic. We are creating a new global civilization. Eighty-eight percent of the world’s population outside the West is rising to Western living standards, and sharing Western aspirations. Yet Mahbubani, one of the most perceptive global commentators, also warns that a new global order needs new policies and attitudes.

Street Smarts: Adventures on the Road and in the Markets
By Jim Rogers
Excerpt via publisher, Random House/Crown Business
Some have labeled me an alarmist, a modern-­day Cassandra. But nothing I see in the future need serve as cause for alarm, or even come as a surprise. The winds of change are blowing, they are blowing from the direction of China, and they are blowing in predictable fashion. What we are witnessing is business as usual, history turning a familiar page. And throughout history such moments of transition have presented opportunities to the attentive, so I am wildly optimistic about many things to come.
Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity
By Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne
Summary via publisher, McGraw-Hill
Many of the world’s economic ills – short-termism, compulsory growth pressure, cyclical recessions, unrelenting concentration of wealth, and erosion of social capital can be traced to our competitive money system, in which there is built-in economic scarcity and never enough money for people to pay off their debts. We need an economic system that is both cooperative and competitive, with each balancing and complimenting the other. Lietaer and Dunne tell how such a balanced system can be created and, in fact, how it is already being built in many places around the world. Individual citizens, entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, and governments are creating new cooperative money systems that link unused resources with unmet needs. Over the past 30 years there has been a tremendous growth of cooperative currencies from fewer than 100 in 1980 to over 4,000 today. But we need many more of them spread more consistently all over the globe. We also need more large-scale cooperative currencies. The emergent cooperative currency movement needs to grow up. Dodging the dogma of both left or right Rethinking Money provides the roadmap for this to happen.
The Handbook of the Political Economy of Financial Crises
Edited by Martin Wolfson and Gerald A. Epstein
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
The Great Financial Crisis that began in 2007-2008 reminds us with devastating force that financial instability and crises are endemic to capitalist economies that lack powerful and dynamically changing financial regulations that can keep the powerful forces of leverage and credit within sustainable bounds. Economists from Marx to Keynes, and Minsky to Kindleberger have well understood this profoundly important fact, yet the dominant mainstream economics of “rational expectations”, “efficient markets” and “laissez-faire” that rationalized widespread financial liberalization and still dominates the economics profession has gotten it, literally, “dead wrong”. This Handbook of The Political Economy of Financial Crises describes the theoretical, institutional, and historical factors that can help us understand the forces that create financial crises – with an emphasis on the crisis of 2007- 2008 – and the strengths and weaknesses of varying theoretical perspectives and policy approaches that have tried to comprehend and limit these financial tsunamis.
Portfolio Theory and Management
Edited by H. Kent Baker and Greg Filbeck
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
Portfolio management is an ongoing process of constructing portfolios that balances an investor’s objectives with the portfolio manager’s expectations about the future. This dynamic process provides the payoff for investors. Portfolio management evaluates individual assets or investments by their contribution to the risk and return of an investor’s portfolio rather than in isolation. This is called the portfolio perspective. Thus, by constructing a diversified portfolio, a portfolio manager can reduce risk for a given level of expected return, compared to investing in an individual asset or security. According to modern portfolio theory (MPT), investors who do not follow a portfolio perspective bear risk that is not rewarded with greater expected return. Portfolio diversification works best when financial markets are operating normally compared to periods of market turmoil such as the 2007-2008 financial crisis. During periods of turmoil, correlations tend to increase thus reducing the benefits of diversification.
Reforming U.S. Financial Markets: Reflections Before and Beyond Dodd-Frank
By Randall S. Kroszner
Summary via publisher, MIT Press
Over the last few years, the financial sector has experienced its worst crisis since the 1930s. The collapse of major firms, the decline in asset values, the interruption of credit flows, the loss of confidence in firms and credit market instruments, the intervention by governments and central banks: all were extraordinary in scale and scope. In this book, leading economists Randall Kroszner and Robert Shiller discuss what the United States should do to prevent another such financial meltdown. Their discussion goes beyond the nuts and bolts of legislative and regulatory fixes to consider fundamental changes in our financial arrangements.