Book Bits | 14 October 2017

The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality
By Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
For years, America has been plagued by slow economic growth and increasing inequality. Yet economists have long taught that there is a tradeoff between equity and efficiency-that is, between making a bigger pie and dividing it more fairly. That is why our current predicament is so puzzling: today, we are faced with both a stagnating economy and sky-high inequality. In The Captured Economy , Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles identify a common factor behind these twin ills: breakdowns in democratic governance that allow wealthy special interests to capture the policymaking process for their own benefit.

Economics in Three Lessons and One Hundred Economics Laws: Two Works in One Volume
By Hunter Lewis
Summary via publisher (Axios Press)
Henry Hazlitt’s 1946 book Economics in One Lesson sold more than a million copies. It is perhaps the best selling economics book of all time. In this book, Hunter Lewis, a Hazlitt admirer and student, provides a sequel and update.
The central lesson of Hazlitt’s seminal work is that economic thought and policy must consider all the consequences of an action, not just the immediate or most visible ones. Hazlitt is right that this is the kernel of all good economics. Lewis covers this theme and also introduces two more lessons: how a free and uncontrolled price system creates prosperity and how a controlled or manipulated price system creates only crony capitalist corruption and, ultimately, poverty and economic failure.

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
By Scott Galloway
Excerpt via CNBC
Firms try to build higher and higher walls to keep enemies (upstarts and competitors) from invasion. Business theorists call these structures “barriers to entry.”
They are nice in theory, but increasingly traditional walls are showing cracks, even crumbling — especially in tech. The plummeting price of processing power (Moore’s Law again), coupled with an increase in bandwidth and a new generation of leadership that has digital in their DNA, has produced bigger ladders than anyone ever expected. ESPN, J.Crew, and Jeb Bush . . . all unassailable, no? No. Digital ladders (over-the-top video, fast fashion, and @therealdonaldtrump) can vault almost any wall.

Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment
By Yanis Varoufakis
Review via The Guardian
Adults in the Room, borrowing a term used pejoratively by Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, provides an extraordinary account of low cunning at the heart of Greece’s 2015 financial bailout. The more defiant the leftwing Syriza government became, the more it was met with intimidation from some or duplicitous reassurance from others. The most venal of the first category was Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s hard-as-nails finance minister. He was joined by various EU bureaucrats who will soon be negotiating against Theresa May’s Brexit crew. One of the most intriguing members of the “trust me, we’d really like to help you, but when push comes to shove, we won’t” camp was Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president. Macron promised to help and he did try, but he came up against the stumbling block of President François Hollande. His embarrassed boss intimated that he had been put in his place by Angela Merkel.

Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data
By Jorn Lyseggen
Summary via Amazon
The world today is drowning in data. There is a treasure trove of valuable and underutilized insights that can be gleaned from information companies and people leave behind on the internet – our ‘digital breadcrumbs’ – from job postings, to online news, social media, online ad spend and more. As a result, we’re at the cusp of a major shift in the way businesses are managed and governed – moving from a focus solely on lagging, internal data, toward analyses that also encompass industry-wide, external data to paint a more complete picture of a brand’s opportunities and threats and uncover forward-looking insights, in real time. Tomorrow’s most successful brands are already embracing Outside Insight, benefitting from an information advantage while their competition is left behind. Drawing on practical examples of transformative, data-led decisions made by brands like Apple, Facebook, Barack Obama and many more, in Outside Insight, Meltwater CEO Jorn Lyseggen illustrates the future of corporate decision-making and offers a detailed plan for business leaders to implement Outside Insight thinking into their company mindset and processes.

Robot Ethics 2.0: From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence
Edited by Patrick Lin, et al.
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
The robot population is rising on Earth and other planets. (Mars is inhabited entirely by robots.) As robots slip into more domains of human life–from the operating room to the bedroom–they take on our morally important tasks and decisions, as well as create new risks from psychological to physical. This makes it all the more urgent to study their ethical, legal, and policy impacts.