Book Bits | 10.6.2012

Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself
By Sheila Bair
Review via Real Clear Markets
In her new book, “Bull By the Horns,” former FDIC chairman Sheila Bair revisits a wide range of policy debates that occurred during her tenure from 2006 to 2011. Chairman Bair has appropriately received acclaim for having steered the FDIC through the crisis, and especially for being among the first to identify the foreclosure crisis and call for policy action to address the problem…. A succinct description of “Bull By the Horns” is that lots of mistakes were made during the crisis – by others. Current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner receives particularly vivid criticism, a feature of the book that is not surprising in light of the widely-known animus between the two officials.

Fear and Greed: Investment risks and opportunities in a turbulent world
By Nicolas Sarkis
Review via MoneyWeek
The section on emerging markets is refreshingly honest. Most authors writing on this topic are bulls on the Brics, but Sarkis is much more bearish. Although valuations are not excessive relative to earnings, Sarkis believes that there are large downside risks in these markets. He also challenges the sloppy thinking that many China bulls are prone to, such as their faith that central planning can tame the economic cycle.
The Permanent Portfolio: Harry Browne’s Long-Term Investment Strategy
By Craig Rowland and J. M. Lawson
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Market uncertainty cannot be eliminated. So rather than attempt to do away with it, why not embrace it? That is what this book is designed to do. The Permanent Portfolio takes you through Harry Browne’s Permanent Portfolio approach—which can weather a wide range of economic conditions from inflation and deflation to recession—and reveals how it can help investors protect and grow their money. Written by Craig Rowland and Mike Lawson, this reliable resource demonstrates everything from a straightforward four-asset Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) version of the strategy all the way up to a sophisticated approach using Swiss bank storage of selected assets for geographic and political diversification. In all cases, the authors provide step-by-step guidance based upon personal experience.
The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get Cheaper and Health Care Doesn’t
By William J. Baumol, et al.
Summary via publisher, Yale University Press
The exploding cost of health care in the United States is a source of widespread alarm. Similarly, the upward spiral of college tuition fees is cause for serious concern. In this concise and illuminating book, the well-known economist William J. Baumol explores the causes of these seemingly intractable problems and offers a surprisingly simple explanation. Baumol identifies the “cost disease” as a major source of rapidly rising costs in service sectors of the economy. Once we understand that disease, he explains, effective responses become apparent.
Information Wants to Be Shared
By Joshua Gans
Press release for e-book
A new ebook from Harvard Business Review Press takes a fresh examination of the economics of information selling in the digital age. What information really wants-what makes it more valuable, useful, and immediate, argues Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is to be shared. Using the tools and logic of information economics, Information Wants to be Shared, shows how sharing enhances most information’s value. He also shows how the business models of traditional media companies, gatekeepers who have relied on scarcity and control, have collapsed in the face of new technologies. Equally important, he argues that sharing can revive moribund, threatened industries even as he examines platforms that have, almost accidentally, thrived in this new environment.
Socially Responsible Finance and Investing: Financial Institutions, Corporations, Investors, and Activists
Edited by H. Kent Baker and John R. Nofsinger
Summary via publisher, Wiley
The concept of socially responsible finance and investing continues to grow, especially in the wake of one of the most devastating financial crises in history. This includes responsibility from the corporate side (corporate social responsibility) as well as the investor side (socially responsible investing) of the capital markets. Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, Socially Responsible Finance and Investing offers an important basis of knowledge regarding both the theory and practice of this ever-evolving area of finance.
The Global Farms Race: Land Grabs, Agricultural Investment, and the Scramble for Food Security
By Michael Kugelman and Susan L. Levenstein
Summary via publisher, Island Press
As we struggle to feed a global population speeding toward 9 billion, we have entered a new phase of the food crisis. Wealthy countries that import much of their food, along with private investors, are racing to buy or lease huge swaths of farmland abroad. The Global Farms Race is the first book to examine this burgeoning trend in all its complexity, considering the implications for investors, host countries, and the world as a whole. The debate over large-scale land acquisition is typically polarized, with critics lambasting it as a form of “neocolonialism,” and proponents lauding it as an elixir for the poor yields, inefficient technology, and unemployment