Book Bits | 16 May 2015

Frontier: Exploring the Top Ten Emerging Markets of Tomorrow
By Gavin Serkin
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Frontier helps investors successfully navigate markets that are yet to “emerge,” with expert advice on spotting opportunities and minimising risks. With first-hand insights into frontier markets as we travel with big-name fund managers from Mark Mobius to Morgan Stanley, this practical guide ranks countries, stocks and bonds on a five- to ten-year horizon to steer investors toward the most promising destinations.

No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends
By Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel
Summary via McKinsey Global Institute
The world not only feels different. The data tell us it is different. Based on years of research by the directors of the McKinsey Global Institute, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Forces Breaking All the Trends is a timely and important analysis of how we need to reset our intuition as a result of four forces colliding and transforming the global economy: the rise of emerging markets, the accelerating impact of technology on the natural forces of market competition, an aging world population, and accelerating flows of trade, capital, people, and data.

Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young
By Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Jared Meyer
Summary via publisher (Encounter Books)
Tens of millions of Americans are between the ages of 18 and 30. These Americans, known as millennials, are, or soon will be, entering the workforce. For them, achieving success will be more difficult than it was for young people in the past. This is not because they are less intelligent, they have worked less hard, or they are any less deserving of the American dream. It is because Washington made decisions that render their lives more difficult than those of their parents or grandparents. Their younger siblings and their children will be even worse off, all because Washington has refused to fix the problem.

End Unemployment Now: How to Eliminate Joblessness, Debt, and Poverty Despite Congress
By Ravi Batra
Review via Publishers Weekly
In this important book, Southern Methodist University economics professor Batra offers practicable solutions to many of the economic problems plaguing America. Most promisingly, these ideas can be implemented without involving Congress and the party loyalties that so often gum up the legislative works. Batra denounces our current system of monopoly capitalism as the main problem, positing free markets and competitive capitalism as the solution. While free markets would by necessity involve congressional input, Batra states that the President can bring about truly competitive capitalism without political hindrance. Batra’s cogent inventory of what he sees as the current obstacles to be overcome includes a “Do Nothing” Congress, high unemployment, monopoly capitalism, and stock market bubbles. He finds the cure for these economic ailments in the sectors of banking and finance, oil and gasoline, big pharma, and foreign trade.

Wall Street Wars: The Epic Battles with Washington that Created the Modern Financial System
By Richard E. Farley
Summary via publisher (Regan Arts)
In 1933, the American economy was in shambles, battered by the 1929 stock market crash and limping from the effects of the Great Depression. But the incoming administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected on a wave of anxiety and hope, stormed Washington on a promise to save the American economy—and remake the entire American financial system. It was the opening salvo in a long war between Wall Street and Washington. Author Richard Farley takes a unique and detailed look at the pitched battles that followed—the fist fights, the circus-like stunts, the conmen and crooks, and the unlikely heroes—and shaped American capitalism. With a disparate cast of characters including Joseph P. Kennedy, J.P. Morgan, Huey Long, Babe Ruth, and Henry Ford (who refused to bail out his son’s bank, thus precipitating the meltdown of the entire banking system), Farley vividly traces the history of modern American finance and the establishment of a financial system still bitterly debated on Capitol Hill.

Inequality: What Can Be Done?
By Anthony B. Atkinson
Q&A with author via Prospect Magazine
Q: Twenty-odd years ago, Atkinson delivered an address to the Royal Economic Society entitled “Bringing Income Distribution in from the Cold.” In it, he noted the way that, for much of the 20th century, distributional questions had been largely ignored by the economics profession. Why, I asked Atkinson, does he think that happened?
A: That’s a good question. There are two elements in trying to answer it. One is the role that inequality plays in trying to understand the economy. And the other is the role that inequality itself plays as a subject. With the former, it would be a feeling that the class divisions classical economists were concerned with—landlords, capitalists and workers—had somehow broken down. And that we were now in a situation in which we were a lot more homogeneous. I think there was a feeling, probably, that in understanding the growth of the economy and other macroeconomic issues, you didn’t need to distinguish so much between different types of people.

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being
by William Davies
Review via Kirkus Reviews
British sociologist and political economist Davies (The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition, 2014) scrutinizes an increasingly desirous yet elusive commodity: human happiness. He asserts that proof of well-being lies in scientifically measured studies with verifiable data, not with advertisers and pharmaceutical companies “watching, incentivizing, prodding, optimizing and pre-empting us psychologically.” The author profiles 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham and discusses how his doctrine of utilitarianism might also be applied to modern theories of individual happiness. Davies believes a race has begun to discover and ultimately develop what motivates human psychology in order to apply methods of achieving contentment across a broad spectrum of societies. Spurred on by capitalism and strategically manipulated technology, influential corporate tastemakers have long sought to tap into (and capitalize on) the secrets of personal happiness by way of behavioral economics, advertising, and the often ethically dicey involuntary monitoring and calibration of human satisfaction.

Handbook of Digital Currency: Bitcoin, Innovation, Financial Instruments, and Big Data
Edited by David Lee Kuo Chuen
Summary via publisher (Academic Press/Elsevier)
Incorporating currencies, payment methods, and protocols that computers use to talk to each other, digital currencies are poised to grow in use and importance. The Handbook of Digital Currency gives readers a way to learn about subjects outside their specialties and provides authoritative background and tools for those whose primary source of information is journal articles. Taking a cross-country perspective, its comprehensive view of the field includes history, technicality, IT, finance, economics, legal, tax and regulatory environment. For those who come from different backgrounds with different questions in mind, The Handbook of Digital Currency is an essential starting point.