Book Bits | 15 February 2020

The Information Trade: How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World
By Alexis Wichowski
Summary via publisher (HarperCollins)
In this provocative book about our new tech-based reality, political insider and tech expert Alexis Wichowski considers the unchecked rise of tech giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla—what she calls “net states”— and their unavoidable influence in our lives. Rivaling nation states in power and capital, today’s net states are reaching into our physical world, inserting digital services into our lived environments in ways both unseen and, at times, unknown to us. They are transforming the way the world works, putting our rights up for grabs, from personal privacy to national security.

The Perils of International Capital
By Faisal Z. Ahmed
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
Can foreign capital empower dictatorship? This groundbreaking book develops a unified theory that links three prominent forms of international capital to the endurance of dictatorships. International capital empowers governments to finance two key instruments of non-democratic politics: repression and patronage. The Perils of International Capital uses theory, case studies, and cross-national statistical evidence to demonstrate causal effects between foreign capital and authoritarian politics. These finding are crucial to scholars and policymakers alike, as they call for a recalibration of the welfare effects associated with greater financial globalization. Ahmed reveals that, while foreign capital may improve economic development, it can tragically hinder democratic governance in the process.

The Uncounted
By Alex Cobham
Summary via publisher (Polity Books)
What we count matters – and in a world where policies and decisions are underpinned by numbers, statistics and data, if you’re not counted, you don’t count. Alex Cobham argues that systematic gaps in economic and demographic data not only lead us to understate a wide range of damaging inequalities, but also to actively exacerbate them. He shows how, in statistics ranging from electoral registers to household surveys and census data, people from disadvantaged groups, such as indigenous populations, women, and disabled people, are consistently underrepresented. This further marginalizes them, reducing everything from their political power to their weight in public spending decisions. Meanwhile, corporations and the ultra-rich seek ever greater complexity and opacity in their financial affairs – and when their wealth goes untallied, it means they can avoid regulation and taxation.

Economists at War: How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars
By Alan Bollard
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Economists at War tells the story of a group of remarkable economists, and how they used their skills to help their countries fight their battles during the turbulent period covering the Chinese–Japanese War, World War I, and the Cold War. Politicians and generals cannot win wars if they do not have resources. This book focuses on the lives and achievements of seven finance ministers, advisors, and central bankers from Japan, China, Germany, the UK, the USSR, and the US. They all had connections, and their stories are interlinked. 1935–55 was a time of conflict, confrontation and destruction. It was also the time when the skills of economists were called upon to finance the military, to identify economic vulnerabilities, to help reconstruction. Economics was first used as a policy tool, and economists started to gain importance: macroeconomics, managerial economics, and computing were all born during this time.

Private Capital Investing: The Handbook of Private Debt and Private Equity
By Roberto Ippolito
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Private Capital Investing: The Handbook of Private Debt and Private Equity is a practical manual on investing in the two of the most common alternative asset classes (private equity and private debt) and provides a unique insight on how principal investors analyze investment opportunities. Unlike other textbooks available in the market, Private Capital Investing covers the various phases that principal investors follow when analyzing a private investment opportunity.