Book Bits: 13 May 2023

Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World
Henry Grabar
Review via LA Times
The cost of parking requirements for new real estate developments is in the billions, passed on in the form of higher payments for mortgage and rent. This contributes, Grabar contends, to a housing crisis that renders great swaths of vibrant American cities unaffordable to younger generations, with increasing numbers living in tent encampments on public sidewalks (and parking lots!) in what still counts as the world’s most prosperous nation.

Un-Civilizing America: How Win-Win Deals Make Us Better
William Bonner
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In Un-Civilizing America – How Win-Win Deals Made Us Rich, bestselling author William Bonner delivers an incisive and engrossing account of the American economy, the four simple steps to earning money the honest way, and why many choose the dishonest way instead. He also discusses the shadow groups that influence America behind the scenes and how their power grew so large they lost the need to remain hidden, and what really drives the government’s phony wars—including the War on Drugs and the US-China trade war.

The Ends of Freedom: Reclaiming America’s Lost Promise of Economic Rights
Mark Paul
Essay by author via Jacobin
Although the United States is richer and more productive than it ever has been, over forty million Americans live in poverty — roughly the same number as in 1933, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to office during the height of the Great Depression, and 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson announced his “war on poverty.”
Despite these troubling numbers, many economists assert the American Dream is alive and well, and that inequality is simply the price we as a nation must pay for economic growth. For years, both Republicans and Democrats accepted this fiction, though lately some Democrats have begun to return to fighting for more democratic control over the economy to broaden prosperity to the working class. Yet the party has no plan to address economic insecurity and poverty and better provide Americans with genuine freedom in their pursuit of happiness.

The Phoenix Economy: Work, Life, and Money in the New Not Normal
Felix Salmon
Summary via publisher (HarperCollins)
An award-winning journalist presents a tour-de-force analysis—drawing from history, economics, sociology, and popular culture—of the profound and transformative years of the early 2020s, both for individuals and for the global economy. We are living in a strange world—Salmon calls it “the New Not Normal.” The Phoenix Economy explores the ramifications of the pandemic years, many of which are surprisingly positive. In doing so, Salmon makes sense of one of the most disorienting and devastating events of our lifetimes. He examines the critical aspects of our lives that have been transformed in three parts: Time and Space, Mind and Body, and Business and Pleasure.

The World of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment over 2,000 Years
Ulbe Bosma
Review via LA Review of Books
What might Donald Rumsfeld have in common with Frederick Barbarossa, Mormons, and Queen Elizabeth I’s rotting teeth? The answer is simpler than you might expect: the power and influence of sugar, a crystalline specimen of world-historical significance dissolved in your morning coffee or tea. A warmongering neocon, a Holy Roman emperor, pious Utahns, and a heavily cavitied pair of Tudor gnashers are part of an expansive cast of characters in Ulbe Bosma’s new work on the sweet stuff, The World of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment over 2,000 Years. This book is a tour de force of global history, one that helps us better understand the genesis of both modern capitalism and globalization.

The Power of Money: How Governments and Banks Create Money and Help Us All Prosper
Paul Sheard
Summary via publisher (Matt Holt/Penguin Random House)
Money permeates our everyday lives—it literally makes the economic world go round—and yet confusion and controversy about money abound. In The Power of Money, economist Paul Sheard distills what money is, how it comes into existence, and how it interacts with the real economy. Money issues dominate the news, but economic jargon and the complexity of it all can be bamboozling. Leading economist Paul Sheard is known for his ability to see the forest and the trees and demystify complex economic phenomena. With The Power of Money, Sheard empowers readers to become better-informed economic citizens by providing context for some of the biggest questions surrounding money.

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