Book Bits: 14 October 2023

Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens
Rajiv Shah
Review via The Wall Street Journal
It turns out that the most useful steps toward reaching big goals often involve smaller ones—the snug, good actions that Mr. Goodman (in McGuffey’s dialogue) would have appreciated. In stopping the spread of Ebola, Mr. Shah reports, “among the most effective means” were new ways of burying victims of the disease, developed by community groups. And in response to the spread of Covid, the Rockefeller Foundation, under Mr. Shah’s leadership, focused on the practical step of improving diagnostic testing, a critical matter after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s tests proved unreliable.

Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War
Branko Milanovic
Summary via publisher (Harvard U. Press)
A sweeping and original history of how economists across two centuries have thought about inequality, told through portraits of six key figures. “How do you see income distribution in your time, and how and why do you expect it to change?” That is the question Branko Milanovic imagines posing to six of history’s most influential economists: François Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Vilfredo Pareto, and Simon Kuznets. Probing their works in the context of their lives, he charts the evolution of thinking about inequality, showing just how much views have varied among ages and societies. Indeed, Milanovic argues, we cannot speak of “inequality” as a general concept: any analysis of it is inextricably linked to a particular time and place.

Financial Reckoning Day: Memes, Manias, Booms & Busts … Investing In the 21st Century (3rd Edition)
Addison Wiggin
Summary via
Economic booms and busts are happening with more frequency. Since the turn of the new millennium, fortunes have been made and lost at a blistering pace. Each boom is like the tension building up before an earthquake. Seismologists can detect the build-up, but they can’t necessarily explain why―or when―the next quake will hit. Economic busts can be equally devastating…and followed by numerous aftershocks. In this entertaining romp through recent economic and financial history, best-selling author, Addison Wiggin, traces the primary trends that have led up to rapid economic growth and innovation while keeping an eye on the inevitable downturn.

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