Book Bits: 13 April 2024

Slow Burn: The Hidden Costs of a Warming World
Robert Jisung Park
Review via International Monetary Fund
As the world warms, anxiety over the effects continues to rise. A survey conducted by the United Nations found two-thirds of the global population believe that climate change is a global emergency. Fears abound on the risks of triggering tipping points in the climate system, such as the melting of ice sheets or the release of underground methane. But alongside future risks of climate catastrophe, there are also slow-burning effects already being felt around the globe. In Slow Burn: The Hidden Costs of a Warming World, environmental and labor economist R. Jisung Park documents these effects, from the expected, like worsening inequality, to the unexpected, such as declining productivity and economic growth.

Taxocracy: What You Don’t Know About Taxes and How They Rule Your Daily Life
Scott Hodge
Summary via publisher (Post Hill Press)
Did you ever wonder why the costs of health care, housing, and college tuition keep going up? Or how your neighbor could afford that fancy electric car? Or why there are so many hard seltzers on the market? Your first guess might not be “taxes,” but they play a big role. We live in a world ruled by taxes—a taxocracy. History is full of misguided tax policies that led to “see-through” buildings, tax-free attics, three-wheeled cars, women in children’s clothing, and baked chips to go along with our hard seltzer. Written by former Tax Foundation CEO Scott Hodge, Taxocracy: What You Don’t Know About Taxes and How They Rule Your Daily Life uses amusing lessons from past tax policies gone wrong to explore how the US tax code caused serious consequences, affecting how we get our health insurance, the price of a college education, what car we buy, where we bank, and, in some cases, even when we die.

Beyond Shareholder Primacy: Remaking Capitalism for a Sustainable Future
Stuart Hart
Summary via publisher (Stanford U. Press)
From the author of Capitalism at the Crossroads, a call to consciousness—and action—for individuals, organizations, communities, and nations. Our current Milton Friedman–style “shareholder primacy capitalism,” as taught in business schools and embraced around the world, has become dangerous for society, the climate, and the planet. Moreover, Stuart L. Hart argues, it’s economically unnecessary. But there are surprising reasons for hope—from the history of capitalism itself. Beyond Shareholder Primacy argues that capitalism has reformed itself twice before and is poised for a third major reformation. Retelling the origin story of capitalism from the fifteenth century to the present, Hart argues that a radically sustainable, just capitalism is possible, and even likely, in our lifetime.

Future of Denial: The Ideologies of Climate Change
Tad DeLay
Summary via publisher (Verso Books)
Capitalism is an ecocidal engine constantly regenerating climate change denial. The age of denial is over, we are told. Yet emissions continue to rise while gimmicks, graft, and green- washing distract the public from the climate violence suffered by the vulnerable. This timely, interdisciplinary contribution to the environmental humanities draws on the latest climatology, the first shoots of an energy transition, critical theory, Earth’s paleoclimate history, and trends in border violence to answer the most pressing question of our age: Why do we continue to squander the short time we have left?

Dignity Not Debt: An Abolitionist Approach to Economic Justice
Chrystin Ondersma
Summary via publisher (U. of California Press)
American households have a debt problem. The problem is not, as often claimed, that Americans recklessly take on too much debt. The problem is that US debt policies have no basis in reality. Weaving together the histories and trends of US debt policy with her own family story, Chrystin Ondersma debunks the myths that have long governed debt policy, like the belief that debt leads to prosperity or the claim that bad debt is the result of bad choices, both of which nest in the overarching myth of a free market unhindered by government interference and accessible to all. In place of these stale narratives, Ondersma offers a compelling, flexible, and reality-based taxonomy rooted in the internationally recognized principle of human dignity. Ondersma’s new categories of debt—grounded in abolitionist principles—revolutionize how policymakers are able to think about debt, which will in turn revolutionize the American debt landscape itself.

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