Book Bits | 22 June 2019

Not Working: Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?
By David G. Blanchflower
Summary via publisher (Princeton U. Press)
Don’t trust low unemployment numbers as proof that the labor market is doing fine—it isn’t. Not Working is about those who can’t find full-time work at a decent wage—the underemployed—and how their plight is contributing to widespread despair, a worsening drug epidemic, and the unchecked rise of right-wing populism. In this revelatory and outspoken book, David Blanchflower draws on his acclaimed work in the economics of labor and well-being to explain why today’s postrecession economy is vastly different from what came before. He calls out our leaders and policymakers for failing to see the Great Recession coming, and for their continued failure to address one of the most unacknowledged social catastrophes of our time. Blanchflower shows how many workers are underemployed or have simply given up trying to find a well-paying job, how wage growth has not returned to prerecession levels despite rosy employment indicators, and how general prosperity has not returned since the crash of 2008.

The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation
By Carl Benedikt Frey
Review via The Enlightened Economist
Anybody interested in the economic impact of digital and AI, in particular on jobs, will want to read Carl Frey’s new book, The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor and Power in the Age of Automation. He is probably best known for his rather gloomy work with Michael Osborne highlighting the vulnerability of many jobs – almost half in the US – to automation in the next couple of decades. The book expands on the issues that will determine the actual outcomes, and is – as the title indicates – still quite pessimistic… The key distinction Frey draws is between technologies which substitute for labor and those which complement it. Whereas the 19th century and the present seem to involve the replacement of people with machines, the 20th century innovations needed increasingly skilled labour to work with them.

Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models
By Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
Summary via publisher (Portfolio)
The world’s greatest problem-solvers, forecasters, and decision-makers all rely on a set of frameworks and shortcuts that help them cut through complexity and separate good ideas from bad ones. They’re called mental models, and you can find them in dense textbooks on psychology, physics, economics, and more. Or, you can just read Super Thinking, a fun, illustrated guide to every mental model you could possibly need. How can mental models help you? Well, here are just a few examples…
• If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by a to-do list that’s grown too long, maybe you need the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to help you prioritize.
• Use the 5 Whys model to better understand people’s motivations or get to the root cause of a problem.
• Before concluding that your colleague who messes up your projects is out to sabotage you, consider Hanlon’s Razor for an alternative explanation.

Is the Chinese Economy a Miracle or a Bubble?
By Lawrence Juen-yee Lau
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
This book presents a collection of articles by Professor Lawrence Juen-yee Lau from 1994 to 2018, discussing Chinese economic development over the past decades. With empirical findings, the author evaluates the relative importance of different sources of growth for the Chinese economy and scrutinizes the strategy of reform and development at various stages. Based on a comprehensive account of China’s macroeconomy, the author addresses the question of whether Chinese economic growth is an extraordinary “miracle” or an implausible economic “bubble.”

Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency
By Larry Diamond
Review via The New York Times
Larry Diamond, a respected political scientist at Stanford, has spent 40 years circumnavigating the globe promoting democracy in Nigeria, Venezuela and some 70 other countries. Yet today he is aghast: “After three decades in which democracy was spreading and another in which it was stagnating and slowly eroding, we are now witnessing a global retreat from freedom.” In his impassioned book “Ill Winds,” he proves a stalwart, persuasive champion for democracy at a moment when its reputation has been fouled by Britain mauling itself with Brexit and by the United States electing someone as morally, intellectually and literally bankrupt as Donald Trump.

Measuring Poverty around the World
By Anthony B. Atkinson
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
In this, his final book, economist Anthony Atkinson, one of the world’s great social scientists and a pioneer in the study of poverty and inequality, offers an inspiring analysis of a central question: What is poverty and how much of it is there around the globe? The persistence of poverty—in rich and poor countries alike—is one of the most serious problems facing humanity. Better measurement of poverty is essential for raising awareness, motivating action, designing good policy, gauging progress, and holding political leaders accountable for meeting targets. To help make this possible, Atkinson provides a critically important examination of how poverty is—and should be—measured.

The Conspiracy of Capital: Law, Violence, and American Popular Radicalism in the Age of Monopoly
By Michael Mark Cohen
Summary via publisher (University of Massachusetts Press)
Between the 1880s and 1920s, a broad coalition of American dissidents, which included rabble-rousing cartoonists, civil liberties lawyers, socialist detectives, union organizers, and revolutionary martyrs, forged a culture of popular radicalism that directly challenged an emergent corporate capitalism. Monopoly capitalists and their allies in govern­ment responded by expanding conspiracy laws and promoting conspiracy theories in an effort to destroy this anti-capitalist movement. The result was an escalating class conflict in which each side came to view the other as a criminal conspiracy.

The Laws of Trading: A Trader’s Guide to Better Decision-Making for Everyone
By Agustin Lebron
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Trading books generally break down into two categories: the ones which claim to teach you how to make money trading, and the memoir-style books recounting scandals and bad behavior. But the former don’t have profitable trades to teach; if they did they’d keep those trades to themselves. And the latter are frequently entertaining, but they don’t leave you with much you can apply in your own life. The Laws of Trading is different. All of our relationships and decisions involve trading at some level. This is a book about decision-making through the lens of a professional prop trader. For years, behavioral and cognitive scientists have shown us how human decision-making is flawed and biased. But how do you learn to avoid these problems in day-to-day decisions where you have to react in real-time? What are the important things to think about and to act on? The world needs a book by a prop trader who has lived, breathed and taught trading for a living, drawing upon years of insights on the trading floor in real markets, good and bad, whether going sideways, crashing, or bubbling over.

7 Financial Models for Analysts, Investors and Finance Professionals: Theory and practical tools to help investors analyse businesses using Excel
By Paul Lower
Summary via publisher (Harriman House)
Financial models in Excel allow investment analysts and other finance professionals to take the laborious number crunching out of financial analysis and forecasting. Models help them to gain meaningful insights into the way that a business is working and focus attention on areas to improve bottom-line results. They can also be used as powerful tools to test the potential impact of various risks on business performance. In this guide, financial modeling expert Paul Lower presents step-by-step instructions for seven spreadsheet models that will help the user to gain a better understanding of the financial data coming out of a business.

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