Book Bits For Saturday: 3.24.2012

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty
By Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
Review via The Guardian
Acemoglu and Robinson are intellectual heavyweights of the first rank, the one a professor of economics at MIT, the other a professor of political science at Harvard. Mostly, such people write only for other academics. In this book, they have done you the courtesy of writing a book that while at the intellectual cutting edge is not just readable but engrossing. This alone would be reason to take notice: a vital topic, top scholars, and a well-written book. But this is not the half of it. The reason that Why Nations Fail is not to be missed is that their thesis pulls apart the two big brute facts of global development. Far from seeing China as the clue to spreading prosperity, Acemoglu and Robinson see it as yet another instance of a society rushing into a cul-de-sac. China is not, on their analysis, on course for our own level of prosperity. Their argument is that the modern level of prosperity rests upon political foundations. Proximately, prosperity is generated by investment and innovation, but these are acts of faith: investors and innovators must have credible reasons to think that, if successful, they will not be plundered by the powerful.


Crisis by Design: The Untold Story of the Global Financial Coup and What You Can Do About It
By John Truman Wolfe
Review via Sonoran Newws
“The recent global economic crisis didn’t just happen – it was created,” said John Truman Wolfe, a banking industry expert and author of Crisis By Design: The Untold Story of The Global Financial Coup and What You Can Do About It, which explains how the financial crisis was caused. “It was designed by a group of international bankers operating out of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland. The purpose was twofold: to remove the United States and the U.S. dollar as the stable point in international finance, and to replace them with what Timothy Geithner (at the time, President of the New York Fed) called a GMA – a Global Monetary Authority.
Gambling with Borrowed Chips: The Common Misdiagnosis of the Crisis of 2007-08
By Christopher Faille
Review via All About Alpha
Christopher C. Faille, intrepid reporter for AllAboutAlpha.com has just published his book-length analysis of the crisis of 2007-08, in a book titled, Gambling with Borrowed Chips. Faille takes issue with what he calls the “common misdiagnosis” of that crisis, the idea that it was all the consequence of rampant speculation and leverage. There is, he says, nothing wrong with speculation (“gambling”). Nor is there anything wrong with borrowing chips to engage in it. Both speculation and leverage serve a variety of valuable functions.
China Versus the West: The Global Power Shift of the 21st Century
By Ivan Tselichtchev
Lecture by author via TED.com (Technology, Entertainment, Design)
Historian and diplomat Joseph Nye gives us the 30,000-foot view of the shifts in power between China and the US, and the global implications as economic, political and “soft” power shifts and moves around the globe. The former assistant secretary of defense and former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Joseph Nye offers sharp insights into the way nations take and cede power.
Let Them Eat Carbon: The Price of Failing Climate Change Policies, and How Governments and Big Business Profit from Them
By Matthew Sinclair
Review via ConservativeHome.com
Matthew Sinclair, Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has written a new book exposing the crippling cost of climate change policy, and the special interests that profit most. His ultimate call is for such policies to be scrapped, that are detrimental to the consumer, and are only beneficial to huge businesses that thrive at their expense. ‘Let them eat carbon’ evaluates the financial implications involved in climate change policy. In ‘Let them eat carbon’ Sinclair reveals the financial implications of regulations such as the Renewables Obligation and the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
The Rent Is Too Damn High
By Matthew Yglesias
Interview with author via The New York Times/Economix
Matthew Yglesias, the Moneybox columnist for Slate, is the author of “The Rent Is Too Damn High,” a short new electronic book. The title refers to an obscure political party in New York: The Rent Is Too Damn High Party. In the book, Mr. Yglesias argues that high rent — by which he means both rents and purchase prices — is a major drag on the American economy and society. “The real value of Yglesias’s book,” John Mangin wrote at The Washington Monthly’s Web site, “lies in its explanatory power, and in its potential to recast an important issue.”
Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor, and the Tea Party
By David Corn
Summary via publisher, HarperCollins
In Showdown, astute political journalist David Corn chronicles and examines this crucial time in the Obama presidency and its impact on the nation’s future. Drawing on interviews with White House officials, Obama’s inner circle, members of Congress, and others, Corn takes the reader into the Oval Office and the back rooms on Capitol Hill for a fast-paced and gripping account of the major events as they unfolded: the controversial tax-cut deal with Congress in December 2010; the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell; the passage of the New START treaty; the near shutdown of the government in early 2011; the revolutionary Arab spring; the killing of Osama bin Laden; the intense, high-wire debt-ceiling negotiations (in which intransigent House Republicans risked the nation’s financial standing); House Speaker John Boehner’s erratic maneuvers during the rise and fall of the grand bargain; and the face-off between Obama and congressional Republicans over how best to create jobs.
In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World
By Ian Stewart
Review via Publisher’s Weekly
Stewart (Game, Set, and Math) shares his enthusiasm as well as his knowledge in this tour of ground-breaking equations and the research they supported. “Equations are the lifeblood of mathematics, science, and technology,” allowing scientists, engineers, and even economists to quantify ideas and concepts. Stewart, Warwick University emeritus professor of mathematics, proceeds chronologically, beginning with Pythagoras’ theorem. He opens each chapter with an equation, then summarizes its importance and the technological developments it brought about. Many of the equations are famous, from Maxwell’s equations unifying electricity and magnetism, and of course Einstein’s “E=mc²”, to Schrödinger’s equation and its unhappy cat. Some are broader mathematical concepts rather than equations, from logarithms and calculus to chaos theory.

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