Book Bits | 27 June 2020

The Long Good Buy: Analysing Cycles in Markets
Peter C. Oppenheimer
Essay by author via Business Insider
It’s interesting that over many decades, despite significantly different circumstances, economic and market cycles both seem to repeat themselves.
Over the past three decades we have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union, dramatic falls in inflation and interest rates, the emergence of the internet and the digital revolution, and yet, despite all of this, cycles continue to occur. There have been close to 30 major bear markets since 1880, and 13 in the post-war period, roughly one every six years.

China: The Bubble that Never Pops
Thomas Orlik
Adaptation via Bloomberg
China is poised for the lowest growth of the reform era. Bloomberg Economics’ forecast is for GDP to expand 2.1% in 2020, down from 6.1% in 2019 and the lowest since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening in 1978. But a system-shaking crisis has been avoided. Markets are stable. Banks are still standing.
The answer—as I argue in my new book, China: The Bubble That Never Pops—lies in the strengths of a system that are hiding in plain sight: rock-solid funding for the banks, state intervention that can be more strength than weakness, and the competitive edge that comes from enormous size…
One day, a crisis will come along that’s too big even for Beijing to handle. When that happens, the price of allowing problems to fester in the dark will be a meltdown of monumental proportions. One day. But if a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic doesn’t pop the bubble, the question is: What will?

Angrynomics
Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
Review via The Enlightened Economist
Their basic thesis is that there are two kinds of anger abroad in the world: moral outrage (good) and tribal anger (bad), both reactions to the way the global economy has affected people since 1989.
Increased inequality is part of the story, genuine economic grievance in the rust belt and its equivalents, and another part is the cynical exploitation of tribalism or identitarianism by some politicians. So Lonergan and Blyth wear their left-of-centre hearts on their sleeves. The dialogues then describe and discuss the economic aspects of the political changes amply described in the now-extensive ‘decline of democracy’ literature – the micro, the macro/monetary, inequality (including, importantly, intergenerational), technological change – concluding with what to do now.

The Great Rupture: Three Empires, Four Turning Points, and the Future of Humanity
Viktor Shvets
Summary via Amazon.com
The lessons of the last five centuries were unequivocal—without freedom, there could be no prosperity or happiness. However, does this still hold true in the Information Age? Modern technologies are disrupting our societies, altering every facet of our lives, from the nature of work and what we intrinsically value, to how we are informed, entertained, and educated—it promises to be a far deeper disruption than Industrial Revolutions. Humanity is at a major turning point, and how we respond to the merger of technology and financialization will decide our future. Will it be capitalism or communism, feudalism or despotism?

The Case for a Job Guarantee
Pavlina Tcherneva
Summary via publisher (Polity)
One of the most enduring ideas in economics is that unemployment is both unavoidable and necessary for the smooth functioning of the economy. This assumption has provided cover for the devastating social and economic costs of job insecurity. It is also false. In this book, leading expert Pavlina R. Tcherneva challenges us to imagine a world where the phantom of unemployment is banished and anyone who seeks decent, living-wage work can find it – guaranteed. This is the aim of the Job Guarantee proposal: to provide a voluntary employment opportunity in public service to anyone who needs it. Tcherneva enumerates the many advantages of the Job Guarantee over the status quo and proposes a blueprint for its implementation within the wider context of the need for a Green New Deal.

The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy
Katherine Gehl and Michael E. Porter
Summary via publisher (Harvard Business Review Press)
Our political system in America is broken, right? Wrong. The truth is, the American political system is working exactly how it is designed to work, and it isn’t designed or optimized today to work for us–for ordinary citizens. Most people believe that our political system is a public institution with high-minded principles and impartial rules derived from the Constitution. In reality, it has become a private industry dominated by a textbook duopoly–the Democrats and the Republicans–and plagued and perverted by unhealthy competition between the players. Tragically, it has therefore become incapable of delivering solutions to America’s key economic and social challenges. In fact, there’s virtually no connection between our political leaders solving problems and getting reelected. In “The Politics Industry,” business leader and path-breaking political innovator Katherine Gehl and world-renowned business strategist Michael Porter take a radical new approach. They ingeniously apply the tools of business analysis–and Porter’s distinctive Five Forces framework–to show how the political system functions just as every other competitive industry does, and how the duopoly has led to the devastating outcomes we see today.

Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the WestCatherine Belton
Summary via publisher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)
Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in Europe. War in Ukraine. In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has waged a concerted campaign to expand its influence and undermine Western institutions. But how and why did all this come about, and who has orchestrated it? In Putin’s People, the investigative journalist and former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton reveals the untold story of how Vladimir Putin and the small group of KGB men surrounding him rose to power and looted their country. Delving deep into the workings of Putin’s Kremlin, Belton accesses key inside players to reveal how Putin replaced the freewheeling tycoons of the Yeltsin era with a new generation of loyal oligarchs, who in turn subverted Russia’s economy and legal system and extended the Kremlin’s reach into the United States and Europe.

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