Book Bits | 12 January 2019

Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle to Tame Wall Street
By Kathleen Day
Review via Kirkus Review
Following the financial meltdown of 2008, writes former business journalist Day (Business Administration/Johns Hopkins Business School; S&L Hell: The People and the Politics Behind the $1 Trillion Savings and Loan Scandal, 1993), Queen Elizabeth II asked faculty at the London School of Economics why no one had noticed. It was, they said, “principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people.” As the author clearly shows, national and international economic systems involve many bright people, but the experts often fail—and, “given the political landscape, they will again.” Day ably documents a succession of crises that ought to have imparted essential lessons but that instead fueled further crises—e.g., tariffs or Andrew Jackson’s undoing of Alexander Hamilton’s national bank system, Jackson being the predecessor Donald Trump seems most to admire. Much of the author’s story concerns efforts to separate banking and investment, which Franklin Roosevelt characterized as “speculation with other people’s money”; every time the two are separated, of course, politicians join them together anew only to usher in another crisis.

Your Complete Guide to a Successful & Secure Retirement
By Larry Swedroe and Kevin Grogan
Review via NextAvenue
This book just came out this week and it’s mostly a straightforward (no laughs here), slightly dense manual to invest for retirement. That makes sense, since Swedroe is director of research for Buckingham Strategic Wealth and the BAM ALLIANCE. His colleague Grogan, a Chartered Financial Analyst and Certified Financial Planner, is director of investment strategy for Buckingham Strategic Wealth and The BAM ALLIANCE. Both have written other smart money books, too, sometimes together.
But buckle in. The authors start off by warning readers about the “four horsemen of the Retirement Apocalypse” — high stock valuations; historically low bond yields; increasing longevity and the risks of long-term care. They then follow this with the nine financial planning errors to avoid. Once you get past all this, though, you’ll learn what to do right and how to avoid a personal financial apocalypse.

The New Stock Market: Law, Economics, and Policy
By Merritt B. Fox, et al.
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
The U.S. stock market has been transformed over the last twenty-five years. Once a market in which human beings traded at human speeds, it is now an electronic market pervaded by algorithmic trading, conducted at speeds nearing that of light. High-frequency traders participate in a large portion of all transactions, and a significant minority of all trade occurs on alternative trading systems known as “dark pools.” These developments have been widely criticized, but there is no consensus on the best regulatory response to these dramatic changes. The New Stock Market offers a comprehensive new look at how these markets work, how they fail, and how they should be regulated.

Blaming Immigrants: Nationalism and the Economics of Global Movement
By Neeraj Kaushal
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Immigration is shaking up electoral politics around the world. Anti-immigration and ultranationalistic politics are rising in Europe, the United States, and countries across Asia and Africa. What is causing this nativist fervor? Are immigrants the cause or merely a common scapegoat? In Blaming Immigrants, economist Neeraj Kaushal investigates the rising anxiety in host countries and tests common complaints against immigration. Do immigrants replace host country workers or create new jobs? Are they a net gain or a net drag on host countries? She finds that immigration, on balance, is beneficial to host countries. It is neither the volume nor pace of immigration but the willingness of nations to accept, absorb, and manage new flows of immigration that is fueling this disaffection.

Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth
By Jonathan D. Ostry, et al.
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Inequality has drastically increased in many countries around the globe over the past three decades. The widening gap between the very rich and everyone else is often portrayed as an unexpected outcome or as the tradeoff we must accept to achieve economic growth. In this book, three International Monetary Fund economists show that this increase in inequality has in fact been a political choice—and explain what policies we should choose instead to achieve a more inclusive economy.

The Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America
By Jack Kelly
Review via The New York Times
Contemporary life seems to invite comparisons to the Gilded Age, but there is little consensus on the meaning of that era… The implications of this historical debate for public policy today makes a recent book on the events that brought the Gilded Age to an end and ushered in the Progressive Era all the more timely and urgent.

Energy Kingdoms: Oil and Political Survival in the Persian Gulf
By Jim Krane
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
In Energy Kingdoms, Jim Krane takes readers inside these monarchies to consider their conundrum. He traces the history of the Gulf states’ energy use and policies, looking in particular at how energy subsidies have distorted demand. Oil exports are the lifeblood of their political-economic systems—and the basis of their strategic importance—but domestic consumption has begun eating into exports while climate change threatens to render their desert region uninhabitable. At risk are the sheikhdoms’ way of life, their relations with their Western protectors, and their political stability in a chaotic region. Backed by rich fieldwork and deep knowledge of the region, Krane expertly lays out the hard choices that Gulf leaders face to keep their states viable.