Book Bits | 11 July 2020

The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread–And Why They Stop
Adam Kucharski
Review via Wired
Kucharski, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is a mathematician by training. He uses data and models to predict how disease outbreaks will progress. His new book, The Rules of Contagion: Why Things Spread—and Why They Stop, lays out those tools and how they can be applied to other parts of life. Think methods to predict how panic might course through the global financial system, or how bad information is transmitted on Facebook. But most important, Kucharski says, is what he calls “epidemiological thinking.” That’s a mindset for dealing with incomplete information, as infectious-disease researchers must when they encounter a novel, fast-moving pathogen. Sometimes you might make bad assumptions, and your models might make predictions that never come to pass. But in a crisis, coming up with a hypothesis, even if it’s a rough one, is often the only way to get people to act.

Lessons from the Titans: What Companies in the New Economy Can Learn from the Great Industrial Giants to Drive Sustainable Success
Scott Davis, et al.
Summary via publisher (McGraw-Hill)
Three top Wall Street analysts reveal enduring lessons in sustainable success from the great industrial titans—the high-tech companies of their day—to the disruptors that now dominate the economy. Before Silicon Valley disrupted the world with new technologies and business models, America’s industrial giants paved the way. Companies like General Electric, United Technologies, and Caterpillar were the Google and Amazon of their day, setting gold standards in innovation, growth, and profitability. Today’s leaders can learn a great deal from their successes, as well as their missteps. In this essential guide, three veteran Wall Street analysts reveal timeless lessons from the titans of industry—and offer battle-tested survival tactics for an ever-changing world.

Why Globalization Works for America: How Nationalist Trade Policies Are Destroying Our Country
Edward Goldberg
Summary via publisher (Potomac Books/Nebraska U. Press)
Blue-collar job loss, immigration, trade deficits—Americans blame globalization for a host of problems. Indeed, even in a political system split by fundamental divisions, populists and progressives alike belong to a chorus that decries globalization’s effects on our politics, way of life, and interactions with the world. Yet the United States is the biggest beneficiary of the global economy it has helped to create. Edward Goldberg argues that globalization is the economic and cultural version of evolution, a natural process that pushes people into more efficient behavior influenced by the market and our human need to explore, change, and grow.

Hot Stocks: Investing for Impact and Profit in a Warming World
James Ellman
Summary via publisher (Rowman & Littlefield)
The costs of global warming and its mitigation will have a major impact on equity market performance over the next two decades. As the climate changes, investors will need to understand which are the best-positioned market sectors and stocks as well as those to avoid. Hot Stocks provides a roadmap detailing how to invest in this new reality. It evaluates the many ways global warming will affect profit flows in the economy:

Bigger Government: The Future Of Government Expenditure in Advanced Economies
Marc Robinson
Summary via author’s website
Advanced nations are headed for a new era of bigger government, with government expenditure set to increase enormously over the next three decades. In all advanced countries, health spending will be driven irresistably upward by the costs of precision medicine and other new technologies, and by the need to fix weaknesses highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. Governments will also be compelled to spend big on fighting global warming, fixing ailing infrastructure and ensuring access to long-term care for a rapidly graying population. The combined impact of these and other spending pressures threatens to drive budget deficits and government debt through the roof. Substantial tax increases will be necessary, most of all in the low-tax United States.

Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality
Jacob S. Hacker
Essay by author via The Atlantic
Covid-19 has hit the American safety net like an asteroid striking Earth. Despite recent state and federal efforts to improve protections for families, the system’s weaknesses have become all too apparent. No one should be surprised that the unemployment-insurance system, which reached fewer than 1 in 3 unemployed workers in 2018, would struggle to meet an unprecedented spike in joblessness, or that most Americans’ dependence on their employer for health coverage would create a crisis when work disappeared just as the need for health insurance swelled. These were glaring problems before the pandemic. Without fundamental reforms, they will only worsen.

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