Book Bits | 12 December 2015

Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves
By Adam Levin
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs)
Increasingly, identity theft is a fact of life. We might once have hoped to protect ourselves from hackers with airtight passwords and aggressive spam folders, and those are good ideas as far as they go. But the truth is, there are people out there — a lot of them — who treat stealing your identity as a full-time job. One such company is a nameless firm located in Russia, which has a trove of over a billion internet passwords. Another set up a website full of live streams of hacked web cameras, showing everything from people’s offices and lobbies to the feeds from baby monitors. Even purchases made in person are still logged by retailers like Target, who are famously vulnerable to hackers. Adam Levin, a longtime consumer advocate and identity fraud expert, is your guide to this brave new world.

Quality Investing: Owning the Best Companies for the Long Term
By Torkell T. Eide, et al.
Summary via publisher (Harriman House)
Quality. We all make judgments about it every day. Yet articulating a clear definition of quality in an investing context is challenging. This book addresses the challenge, and distills years of practical investing experience into a definitive account of this under-explored investment philosophy. Finance theory has it that abnormal outcomes do not persist, that exceptional performance will soon enough become average performance. Quality investing involves seeking companies with the right attributes to overcome these forces of mean reversion and, crucially, owning these outstanding companies for the long term. This book pinpoints and explains the characteristics that increase the probability.

Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World
By Leif Wenar
Review via The Economist
Look at the tablet or the paper that you are reading. Its making will probably involve oil, minerals or metals. Some of those resources will have come from a country whose government steals from and oppresses its citizens. By one estimate, almost 10% of what the average American household spends on petrol each year goes directly into the coffers of such regimes. This is a nasty, if familiar, thought. But Leif Wenar, a philosopher at King’s College London, pushes these ideas further, with uncomfortable consequences.

Reviving America: How Repealing Obamacare, Replacing the Tax Code and Reforming The Fed will Restore Hope and Prosperity
By Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames
Essay by author (Forbes) via Fox News
Americans are in an anxious, frustrated mood. Most people on both the left and right feel we have lost our way. Since 2009, wage earners have suffered declines in their real incomes, with those who make the least suffering the largest percentage drop. Our national security is threatened by terrorists and dictators who lethally exploit the vacuum created by President Obama’s abandonment of international leadership. The failed policies of a president who promised to give us “hope and change” have instead created public anger and uncertainty resulting in a level of demonstrations and riots not seen in over 40 years. This is why dramatic reforms are necessary. My new book, “Reviving America,” shows how implementing big reforms in three critical areas–health care, taxes and monetary policy–would ignite a spectacular economic resurgence in the US that would astound the world.

●  The Mark and the Void: A Novel
By Paul Murray
Review via The NY Times
Paul Murray’s satirical novel of the Irish banking crisis, “The Mark and the Void,” takes place primarily at the International Financial Services Center, a section of Dublin that functions as a tax haven for multinational corporations, a place where billions in assets hide behind brass nameplates in the Transaction House and shadow banks operate hidden from the prying eyes of regulators. It’s anonymous by design. As one of Murray’s characters explains: “We’re in the middle of Dublin, where Joyce set ‘Ulysses.’ But it doesn’t look like Dublin. We could be in London or Frankfurt or Kuala Lumpur.”

Valuation: Theories and Concepts
By Rajesh Kumar
Summary via publisher (Academic Press)
This book provides users with cases from all markets, especially emerging markets, and will help readers connect the dots from ratio analysis to value measurement. Topics covered include trend analysis of financial parameters, ratio analysis, differing perspectives on valuation and strategic initiatives, and more.

Governing Access to Essential Resources
Edited by Katharina Pistor and Olivier De Schutter
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Essential resources do more than satisfy people’s needs. They ensure a dignified existence. Since the competition for essential resources, particularly fresh water and arable land, is increasing, and standard legal institutions, such as property rights and national border controls, are strangling access to resources for some while delivering prosperity to others, many are searching for ways to ensure their fair distribution. This book argues that essential resources ought to be governed by a combination of Voice and Reflexivity. Voice is the ability of social groups to choose the rules by which they are governed. Reflexivity is the opportunity to question one’s own preferences in light of competing claims and to accommodate them in a collective learning process.