Book Bits | 22 August 2020

Money for Nothing: The Scientists, Fraudsters, and Corrupt Politicians Who Reinvented Money, Panicked a Nation, and Made the World Rich
Thomas Levenson
Summary via publisher (Penguin Random House)
Money for Nothing chronicles the moment when the needs of war, discoveries of natural philosophy, and ambitions of investors collided. It’s about how the Scientific Revolution intertwined with finance to set England—and the world—off in an entirely new direction… Unlike science, though, with its tightly controlled experiments, the financial revolution was subject to trial and error on a grand scale, with dramatic, sometimes devastating, consequences for people’s lives. With England at war and in need of funds and “stock-jobbers” looking for any opportunity to get in on the action, this new world of finance had the potential to save the nation—but only if it didn’t bankrupt it first.

The Ascent of Market Efficiency: Finance That Cannot Be Proven
Simone Polillo
Summary via publisher (Cornell U. Press)
The Ascent of Market Efficiency weaves together historical narrative and quantitative bibliometric data to detail the path financial economists took in order to form one of the central theories of financial economics—the influential efficient-market hypothesis—which states that the behavior of financial markets is unpredictable. As the notorious quip goes, a blindfolded monkey would do better than a group of experts in selecting a portfolio of securities, simply by throwing darts at the financial pages of a newspaper. How did such a hypothesis come to be so influential in the field of financial economics? How did financial economists turn a lack of evidence about systematic patterns in the behavior of financial markets into a foundational approach to the study of finance?

The Expendables: How the Middle Class Got Screwed By Globalization
Jeff Rubin
Essay by author via NY Times
It has become taboo in Canada’s established political circles to question what the world trading order has done to the country’s vaunted middle class. Vocally criticizing free trade deals, such as the recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and denouncing them as harmful to middle-income workers, risks being ridiculed as “nativist” or “retrograde.” Problem is, trade liberalization has been at the root of decline for millions of Canadians over the past 30 years.

Accountable: The Rise of Citizen Capitalism
Michael O’Leary and Warren Valdmanis
Review via Publishers Weekly
Investors O’Leary and Valdmanis debut with a well-informed and idealistic call for a more ethical version of capitalism. The authors identify two competing visions for the American economy—a short-term profit-driven model in which corporations are beholden only to shareholders versus a stakeholder framework in which the concerns of customers, employees, and local communities are taken into account—and contend that the true measure of capitalism is its ability to lift people out of poverty.

Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide
Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson
Summary via publisher (Pluto Press)
A sense of urgency pervades global environmentalism, and the degrowth movement is bursting into the mainstream. As climate catastrophe looms closer, people are eager to learn what degrowth is about, and whether we can save the planet by changing how we live. This book is an introduction to the movement. As politicians and corporations obsess over growth objectives, the degrowth movement demands that we must slow down the economy by transforming our economies, our politics and our cultures to live within the Earth’s limits.

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