Book Bits | 11 May 2019

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World
By Oliver Bullough
Review via
Hang onto your metaphorical hats, because this is the most eye-opening book that you’ll read all year. Moneyland documents exactly how the ultra-rich — especially dictators and criminals — structure shell companies in multiple countries (including many US states) so that they can stash, mostly in the U.S. and the U.K., a trillion dollars of ill-gotten gains every year. It describes how the real-estate business in both countries caters to these money and how the moguls in those industried (many of whom are highly placed in our government) therefore have a vested interest in keeping those dictators in power. A must read for anyone who wants to understand how the real world of wealth works.

The Wealth Effect: How the Great Expectations of the Middle Class Have Changed the Politics of Banking Crises
By Jeffrey M. Chwieroth and Andrew Walter
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
The politics of major banking crises has been transformed since the nineteenth century. Analyzing extensive historical and contemporary evidence, Chwieroth and Walter demonstrate that the rising wealth of the middle class has generated ‘great expectations’ among voters that the government is responsible for the protection of this wealth. Crisis policy interventions have become more extensive and costly – and their political aftermaths far more fraught – because of democratic governance, not in spite of it. Using data from numerous democracies over two centuries, and detailed studies of Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States, this book breaks new ground in exploring the consequences of the emerging mass political demand for financial stabilization. It shows why great expectations have induced rising financial fragility, more financial sector bailouts and rising political instability and discontent in contemporary democracies, providing new insight to anyone concerned with contemporary policy and politics.

Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass
By Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri
Review via San Francisco Review of Books
Ghost workers are on-demand, disposable people who work behind the curtain to ensure the internet lives up to its promise. In Ghost Work, Mary Gray and Siddharth Suri have gone behind the curtain themselves, gathering data and interviewing the people who do the work. It is the first to penetrate this domain, which clearly needs more such efforts.
In the world of ghost work, jobs last for seconds, not years. Workers must spend far more hours searching for quick gigs than actually performing them. And despite the divide-and-conquer nature of everyone working on their own, ghost workers have found ways to communicate, link up and share knowledge of new gigs that people working in isolation might not see.

Your New Money Story:
The Beliefs, Behaviors, and Brain Science to Rewire for Wealth

By David Krueger
Summary via publisher (Rowman & Littlefield)
Neuroscientists estimate that over 90 percent of our operating systems—beliefs, behaviors, patterns—are unconscious. Since the surface story determines less than 10 percent of our decisions, how can we illuminate the shadow story responsible for over 90 percent of what we do each day? Once we systematically understand our relationship with money, can we overcome the mind and brain’s resistance to change? Especially when so many of the current popular strategies for change are contrary to the way the mind and brain work?

The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business
By David T. Courtwright
Summary via publisher (Harvard University Press)
From a leading expert on addiction, a provocative, singularly authoritative history of how sophisticated global businesses have targeted the human brain’s reward centers, driving us to addictions ranging from oxycodone to Big Macs to Assassin’s Creed to Snapchat—with alarming social consequences. We live in an age of addiction, from compulsive gaming and shopping to binge eating and opioid abuse. Sugar can be as habit-forming as cocaine, researchers tell us, and social media apps are hooking our kids. But what can we do to resist temptations that insidiously and deliberately rewire our brains? Nothing, David Courtwright says, unless we understand the history and character of the global enterprises that create and cater to our bad habits.

Cracking Complexity:
The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast

By David Komlos and David Benjamin
Q&A with author via Forbes
Some business people seem to assume that their most vexing challenges will take years to unravel. But David Benjamin and David Komlos—leaders at a Toronto-based firm called Syntegrity—use an action formula they say shortens the process of solving an organization’s toughest challenges to mere days.
They’ve refined their Complexity Formula, with origins in cybernetics and systems-thinking during two decades of working with Fortune 500 CEO, policymakers, global product leaders, government officials and global associations.

Power Trip: The Story of Energy
By Michael E. Webber
Summary via publisher (Basic Books)
Power Trip explores how energy has transformed societies of the past and offers wisdom for today’s looming energy crisis. There is no magic bullet; energy advances always come with costs. Scientific innovation needs public support. Energy initiatives need to be tailored to individual societies. We must look for long-term solutions. Our current energy crisis is real, but it is solvable. We have the power.

Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst (2nd ed.)
By Vikram Mansharamani
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Now in its second edition, Boombustology is an authoritative, up-to-date guide on the history of booms, busts, and financial cycles. Engaging and accessible, this popular book helps investors, policymakers, and analysts navigate the radical uncertainty that plagues today’s uncertain investing and economic environment. Author Vikram Mansharamani, an experienced global equity investor and prominent Harvard University lecturer, presents his multi-disciplinary framework for identifying financial bubbles before they burst. Moving beyond the typical view of booms and busts as primarily economic occurrences, this innovative book offers a multidisciplinary approach that utilizes microeconomic, macroeconomic, psychological, political, and biological lenses to spot unsustainable dynamics.