Book Bits: 10 October 2020

The Death of Human Capital?: Its Failed Promise and How to Renew It in an Age of Disruption
Phillip Brown, et al.
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
Human capital theory, or the notion that there is a direct relationship between educational investment and individual and national prosperity, has dominated public policy on education and labor for the past fifty years. In The Death of Human Capital?, Phillip Brown, Hugh Lauder, and Sin Yi Cheung argue that the human capital story is one of false promise: investing in learning isn’t the road to higher earnings and national prosperity. Rather than abandoning human capital theory, however, the authors redefine human capital in an age of smart machines. They present a new human capital theory that rejects the view that automation and AI will result in the end of waged work, but see the fundamental problem as a lack of quality jobs offering interesting, worthwhile, and rewarding opportunities.

A Brief History of Money: 4000 Years of Markets, Currencies, Debt and Crisis
David Orrell
Summary via Amazon
What do cacao beans, cowrie shells, paper cards, cigarettes and digital databases all have in common? At some time, they have been used as a form of money. Money is an essential aspect of everyday life and something that we usually take for granted until it all goes wrong. This book traces the role, growth and impact of money and finance on individuals, human civilisation and the type of economy we live in. The financial history of the world reads like a fascinating novel with innumerable twists and turns. We strive for financial stability and security, yet this often proves surprisingly ephemeral. Just as we hope we have reached a new plateau of prosperity, the financial system has a habit of throwing a wrench in the works, forcing us to change and adapt to new circumstances. This book traces the financial system from its birth as a credit system in ancient Mesopotamia, to the financial revolutions of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Human Work In the Age of Smart Machines
Jamie Merisotis
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
We are living through a time of upheaval and social unrest, with increasing threats to global health, democratic institutions, and the world’s economies. But behind the alarming headlines is another issue that must be quickly addressed: the role of workers is being transformed—and often rendered obsolete—by automation and artificial intelligence. As Jamie Merisotis, the president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, argues in Human Work In the Age of Smart Machines, we can—and must—rise to this challenge by preparing to work alongside smart machines doing that which only humans can: thinking critically, reasoning ethically, interacting interpersonally, and serving others with empathy.

Elevated Economics: How Conscious Consumers Will Fuel the Future of Business
Richard Steel
Summary via Amazon
A vital leadership guide to understanding and engaging socially responsible consumers and investors
Consumers and investors have innovated their game. Now you as a leader must innovate with them or face the consequences. In this engaging and persuasive guide to the new world of conscious capitalism, entrepreneur and investor Richard Steel details the inevitability of the coming changes in capitalism.

On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake
Sarah Chayes
Review via The Economist
She begins with the decision by America’s Supreme Court in 2016 that voided the influence-peddling conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former governor of Virginia. He and his wife had accepted lavish gifts from a vitamin-supplement manufacturer, and asked the state health authority to consider recommending its products. But because no explicit bribe was offered in exchange for an official act, the court ruled unanimously that a guilty verdict could criminalise the normal conduct of democratic politics. Prosecutors say this standard has made it almost impossible to convict American politicians of corruption.

International Trade: What Everyone Needs to Know®
Anne O. Krueger
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
International trade and trade policy have become increasingly important and complex in recent years. In this comprehensive introduction to the key aspects of international trade policy, noted authority Anne O. Krueger explains what has happened and why these issues are so difficult. With evidence-based analysis and an even-handed approach, International Trade: What Everyone Needs to Know lays the foundation to understand what trade does and does not do. Focusing on the importance of trade in both goods and services, Krueger explores the effects of various trade policies step-by-step and demonstrates why economists generally support free trade.

China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet
Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
What does it mean for the future of the planet when one of the world’s most durable authoritarian governance systems pursues “ecological civilization”? Despite its staggering pollution and colossal appetite for resources, China exemplifies a model of state-led environmentalism which concentrates decisive political, economic, and epistemic power under centralized leadership. On the face of it, China seems to embody hope for a radical new approach to environmental governance.

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