Book Bits | 12 August 2017

Will China’s Economy Collapse?
By Ann Lee
Summary via publisher (Polity Books)
The recent downturn in the Chinese economy has become a focal point of global attention, with some analysts warning that China is edging dangerously close to economic meltdown. Is it possible that the second largest economy in the world could collapse and drag the rest of the world with it? Or will China simply implode under the strain of its many problems and recede from the world stage like Japan? Does it have the resilience and preparedness to tackle the multiplicity of economic challenges it faces? In this penetrating essay, leading expert on China’s economic relations Ann Lee explains why China’s economy will not sink us all and what policy options it is drawing on to mitigate against such a catastrophic scenario. Dissecting China’s economic challenges with realistic clarity, she makes a compelling case for China’s continued economic robustness in multiple sectors in the years ahead.

Conservatives Against Capitalism: From the Industrial Revolution to Globalization
By Peter Kolozi
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Few beliefs seem more fundamental to American conservatism than faith in the free market. Yet throughout American history, many of the major conservative intellectual and political figures have harbored deep misgivings about the unfettered market and its disruption of traditional values, hierarchies, and communities. In Conservatives Against Capitalism, Peter Kolozi traces the history of conservative skepticism about the influence of capitalism on politics, culture, and society.

The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do to Fix It
By Steve Slavin
Review via Publishers Weekly
Economist Slavin (To the City, with Love) identifies a new culprit for what ails the U.S.: inefficiency. He charges Americans with allowing the auto industry to decimate public transportation systems, developing the most expensive healthcare system among advanced economies, and fostering vast “make work” industries that produce no real useful goods or services. Many of Slavin’s rants are familiar, but he does have a fresh eye for overlooked senselessness. For instance, he asks, why employ 1.2 million people as tax preparers, rather than simplifying the tax code?

How Much Inequality Is Fair?: Mathematical Principles of a Moral, Optimal, and Stable Capitalist Society
By Venkat Venkatasubramanian
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Many in the United States feel that the nation’s current level of economic inequality is unfair and that capitalism is not working for 90% of the population. Yet some inequality is inevitable. The question is: What level of inequality is fair? Mainstream economics has offered little guidance on fairness and the ideal distribution of income. Political philosophy, meanwhile, has much to say about fairness yet relies on qualitative theories that cannot be verified by empirical data. To address inequality, we need to know what the goal is—and for this, we need a quantitative, testable theory of fairness for free-market capitalism.

The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek
By Howard Markel
Review via The Chicago Tribune
Study your Corn Flakes in the morning and you may be hard pressed to see them as the product of high drama. But as biographer Howard Markel reveals, ferocious fraternal rivalries went into their creation.
Markel’s new book, “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek,” vividly recounts the contentious story of two men behind the early 20th century’s revolution in ready-to-eat foods.

The Bettencourt Affair: The World’s Richest Woman and the Scandal That Rocked Paris
By Tom Sancton
Review via Vanity Fair
In 2013, a curious relationship between Liliane Bettencourt—nonagenarian heiress to the L’Oreal fortune and, according to Forbes, the richest woman in the world—and François-Marie Banier, a much younger, gay artist, brought about the biggest scandal in recent French history. Bettencourt showered hundreds of millions of dollars, along with real estate and other gifts, upon her vivacious friend. Ultimately, her adult daughter, Françoise, incited an investigation that led to allegations of political corruption that ended then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s career.