Book Bits: 1 October 2022

Adrift: America in 100 Charts
Scott Galloway
Review via Publishers Weekly
In this data-driven analysis, NYU business professor Galloway (Post Corona) charts rises in economic inequality, political partisanship, and social alienation since the 1980s. Contending that Ronald Reagan’s tax and budget cuts boosted the economy but suppressed social mobility, Galloway uses graphs, pie charts, and other visuals to illustrate the stark divide in wage growth between the top 1% of American workers and the rest, the declines in infrastructure spending that have left 45% of Americans without access to public transportation, and the sharp increase—from 5% to more than half—of corporate profits registered in foreign tax havens. On the flip side, he presents data documenting how U.S.-led globalization efforts over the past 40 years have decreased global poverty and infant mortality rates. The picture that emerges is one of accelerating domestic decline, as Reagan’s ethos of “rugged individualism” has morphed into “idolatry of innovators” while fostering intolerance and distrust in government.

Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control
Vili Lehdonvirta
Review via London School of Economics blog
Mark Zuckerberg has played the video game ‘Civilization’ since middle school. The tagline of Sid Meier’s famous strategy game is ‘build an empire to stand the test of time’. Although it may not have been his original intention, Zuckerberg’s Facebook, now Meta, may end up being as consequential for world politics as many of the states and empires depicted in his childhood pastime. Meta – and many other global platforms – now create and enforce rules that govern important aspects of our everyday lives. Cloud Empires, a brilliant new book by Vili Lehdonvirta, examines the rise of these digital empires and offers new ideas for what could be done to hold them to account. In the words of the author, the book explains ‘why digital platforms have become the new virtual ‘‘states’’, how they nevertheless differ from our earthly nations, and how we can regain control over them.’

Diminishing Returns: The New Politics of Growth and Stagnation
Edited by Mark Blyth, et al.
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
A set of state of the art empirical analyses at the country, regional, and global level that work from a new theoretical framework that analyzes the politics of growth and stagnation. As highlighted by the recent debate on ‘secular stagnation,’ economic growth has slowed down considerably, and this has given rise to a host of new problems, from financial instability to the collapse of mainstream parties. What happens when growth—the main mechanism of capitalist legitimation—is harder to come by and less broadly shared? And how should we think about capitalist diversity in the context of global stagnation?

Psychology of Financial Planning: The Practitioner’s Guide to Money and Behavior
Charles R. Chaffin, et al.
Interview with author via
On today’s show, TikTok maven and behavioral money guru Dr. Bradley Klontz joins us to dive into your money habits. How bad do you suck with money? Probably not as bad as other people, based on some recent studies. But who cares about them? Let’s try and do better! Today we’ll dive into habits you can form to be better with your cash. Plus, during our headlines segment, OG tackles the current optimism around bonds. If bonds are poised to go up, and OG believes it, why wouldn’t he recommend investing in the gold rush? We’ll explain.

Unearthed: The Economic Roots of Our Environmental Crisis
Kenneth M. Sayre
Summary via publisher (U. of Notre Dame Press)
In Unearthed: The Economic Roots of Our Environmental Crisis, Kenneth M. Sayre argues that the only way to resolve our current environmental crisis is to reduce our energy consumption to a level where the entropy (degraded energy and organization) produced by that consumption no longer exceeds the biosphere’s ability to dispose of it. Tangible illustrations of this entropy buildup include global warming, ozone depletion, loss of species diversity, and unmanageable amounts of nonbiodegradable waste. Degradation of the biosphere is tied directly to human energy use, which has been increasing exponentially since the Industrial Revolution. Energy use, in turn, is directly correlated with economic production. Sayre shows how these three factors are invariably bound together. The unavoidable conclusion is that the only way to resolve our environmental crisis is to reverse the present pattern of growth in the world economy.

Taxes Have Consequences: An Income Tax History of the United States
Arthur B. Laffer, et al.
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
Ever since 1913, when the United States first imposed the income tax via constitutional amendment, the top rate of that tax has determined the fate of the American economy. When the top rate has been high, as in the late 1910s, the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1970s, the response of those with money and capital has been to curtail real economic activity in favor of protecting assets and income streams. Huge declines have come to the economy in these circumstances. The most brutal example was the Great Depression itself. When the top tax rate has been cut and held at reduced levels—as in the 1920s, the 1960s, in the long boom of the 1980s and 1990s, and briefly in the late 2010s—astonishing reversals have occurred. The rich have brought their money out of hiding and put it to work in the economy. The huge swings in the American economy since 1913 have had an inverse relationship to income tax rates.

The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream
Steve Case
Q&A with author via
Q: Why did you write ‘The Rise of the Rest’ now?
A: After spending most of the last decade traveling around the country to dozens of American cities and meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs, I found their stories so mesmerizing and encouraging that I wanted to share them with other people. I think most people assume that the majority of innovation happens in places like Silicon Valley. They don’t realize the innovation that’s happening in dozens of cities all across the country. In terms of the forces that are converging, the pandemic has been a shake-the-snow-globe moment: people are rethinking how and where they work, how and where they live, and remote work. A lot of things have resulted in a dispersion of talent, as well, and people who left their work situations because of brain drain are now returning. It’s a sort of boomerang.

Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back
Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow
Q&A with authors via
Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin are the authors of Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back, a new book from Beacon Press that breaks down how the current economy serves a few major power holders in creative markets rather than the creators themselves. The power is concentrated in the hands of a few in several industries, Doctorow noted: “Five major publishers—shortly to be four—four major studios, three labels that own three music publishers, one cinema chain, one book distributor. Wherever you look, you find these markets.”

Empathy Economics: Janet Yellen’s Remarkable Rise to Power and Her Drive to Spread Prosperity to All
Owen Ullmann
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs Books)
When President Biden announced Janet Yellen as his choice for secretary of the treasury, it was the peak moment of a remarkable life. Not only the first woman in the more than two-century history of the office, Yellen is the first person to hold all three top economic policy jobs in the United States: chair of both the Federal Reserve and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors as well as treasury secretary. Through Owen Ullmann’s intimate portrait, we glean two remarkable aspects of Yellen’s approach to economics: first, her commitment to putting those on the bottom half of the economic ladder at the center of economic policy, and employing forward-looking ideas to use the power of government to create a more prosperous, productive life for everyone. And second, her ability to maintain humanity in a Washington policy world where fierce political combat casts others as either friend or enemy, never more so than in our current age of polarization.

Risk Modeling: Practical Applications of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning
Terisa Roberts and Stephen J. Tonna
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Risk Modeling: Practical Applications of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning introduces readers to the use of innovative AI technologies for forecasting and evaluating financial risks. Providing up-to-date coverage of the practical application of current modelling techniques in risk management, this real-world guide also explores new opportunities and challenges associated with implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) into the risk management process. Authors Terisa Roberts and Stephen Tonna provide readers with a clear understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of machine learning and AI while explaining how they can be applied to both everyday risk management problems and to evaluate the financial impact of extreme events such as global pandemics and changes in climate.

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