● Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System
By Barry Eichengreen
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
For more than half a century, the U.S. dollar has been not just America’s currency but the world’s. It is used globally by importers, exporters, investors, governments and central banks alike… This dependence on dollars, by banks, corporations and governments around the world, is a source of strength for the United States. It is, as a critic of U.S. policies once put it, America’s “exorbitant privilege.” However, recent events have raised concerns that this soon may be a privilege lost. Among these have been the effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession: high unemployment, record federal deficits, and financial distress. In addition there is the rise of challengers like the euro and China’s renminbi. Some say that the dollar may soon cease to be the world’s standard currency–which would depress American living standards and weaken the country’s international influence.
In Exorbitant Privilege, one of our foremost economists, Barry Eichengreen, traces the rise of the dollar to international prominence over the course of the 20th century. He shows how the greenback dominated internationally in the second half of the century for the same reasons–and in the same way–that the United States dominated the global economy. But now, with the rise of China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies, America no longer towers over the global economy. It follows, Eichengreen argues, that the dollar will not be as dominant. But this does not mean that the coming changes will necessarily be sudden and dire–or that the dollar is doomed to lose its international status.
● The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do
By Eduardo Porter
Review via Bloomberg
“Every choice we make,” Porter writes, “is shaped by the prices of the options laid out before us — what we assess to be their relative costs — measured up against their benefits.”
Porter, a member of the New York Times editorial board, finds value where others see garbage. A child in New Delhi can make 20 to 30 rupees a day — 45 to 67 U.S. cents — picking through dumps (and risking her health) for plastic bottles that many Americans wouldn’t bother returning to the supermarket for the nickel deposit. Rich or poor, we humans weigh prices against opportunity and risk.
“The price we put on things — what we will trade for our lives or our refuse — says a lot about who we are,” he says.
Each chapter riffs on the main theme: the Price of Things, the Price of Life, the Price of Happiness and so on. Though short on firsthand reporting, the book smoothly synthesizes economic research and anecdotal evidence.
● The Futures: The Rise of the Speculator and the Origins of the World’s Biggest Markets
By Emily Lambert
Review via The Wall Street Journal
In “The Futures,” Emily Lambert addresses the subject with as much affection as is ever likely to be stirred by the pork-belly business. She’s a believer: “With futures, traders were more than gamblers. Gamblers created risk to bet on. They threw dice that didn’t have to be thrown. But in the futures business, men bet on risks that already existed. The corn crop could fail.”…Trading developed because of the inherent delay in some of these commodities’ coming to market—eggs could be stored, corn had to be harvested and beef had to be butchered. The time-lag involved in each introduced an element of risk. Ms. Lambert thus portrays the Chicago Board of Trade, founded in 1851, and the Merc, begun in 1874, as organic extensions of their various industries, providing, in effect, insurance to protect the growers and other producers.
Thankfully Ms. Lambert, a writer for Forbes magazine, does not portray these markets as Hallmark incarnations of perfect capitalism. She lavishes attention on a rogues’ gallery of traders who routinely tried to corner (that is, monopolize) the supply.
● Your Money Ratios: 8 Simple Tools for Financial Security
By Charles Farrell
Review via JoeTaxPayer.com
I think that this book would benefit people at any stage of their life (hmm, maybe the blurb on the cover stating “for every stage of life” really sunk in). Someone just starting out can get a good understanding of how to start on a good financial path, knowing in their 20′s what their goal is 30 some years hence. An older reader can get an understanding of whether or not they’re on target and perhaps better calculate what their goals are. More than anything, the writing style and tone of the book was something that put me at ease. We are offered targets but not made to feel that these number are rigid, carved in stone.
● Basic Economics 4th Ed: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy
By Thomas Sowell
Summary via publisher, Perseus Academic
The fourth edition of Basic Economics is both expanded and updated. A new chapter on the history of economics itself has been added, and the implications of that history examined. A new section on the special role of corporations in the economy has been added to the chapter on government and big business, among other additions throughout the book.