Book Bits: 17 April 2021

The Day the Markets Roared: How a 1982 Forecast Sparked a Global Bull Market
Henry Kaufman
Interview with author via Politico
Henry Kaufman, nicknamed Dr. Doom during his 26 years at Salomon Brothers, has a new warning. In his latest book, ‘The Day the Markets Roared: How a 1982 Forecast Sparked a Global Bull Market,’ he argues the influence of central banks has increased to the point that it might present its own risk to the financial system.
‘We’re moving to an environment, which I call statism, in which the federal government and the Federal Reserve dominate the economic and financial system. And that, at times, used to occur in wars. Not in peacetime,’ Kaufman said in an interview.

What We Mean by the American Dream: Stories We Tell about Meritocracy
Doron Taussig
Summary via publisher (ILR Press/Cornell U. Press)
Doron Taussig invites us to question the American Dream. Did you earn what you have? Did everyone else? The American Dream is built on the idea that Americans end up roughly where we deserve to be in our working lives based on our efforts and abilities; in other words, the United States is supposed to be a meritocracy. When Americans think and talk about our lives, we grapple with this idea, asking how a person got to where he or she is and whether he or she earned it. In What We Mean by the American Dream, Taussig tries to find out how we answer those questions.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
Patrick Radden Keefe
Review via The LA Times
As Keefe ably demonstrates, it was the Sacklers who dreamed up OxyContin as a solution to an anticipated revenue decline, and it was the Sacklers who insisted their powerful narcotic, the sort of drug previously reserved for terminal patients, be marketed aggressively and widely. That decision to push the drug as a treatment for common aches and pains kicked open a door. OxyContin rushed in first, but competitors followed; eventually they were joined by Mexican cartels dealing heroin and Chinese traffickers of fentanyl.
The Sacklers’ motivation, Keefe suggests, was simple greed, and they were aided in this project by a pair of noxious family traits: the refusal to admit error and a shocking inability to empathize.

Lincolnomics: How President Lincoln Constructed the Great American Economy
John F. Wasik
Essay by author via Forbes
Few Americans realize that a great deal of our collective wealth — transcontinental infrastructure from national banks to railroads — emerged from a few laws signed into law by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
As we struggle to emerge from the dual crises of a global pandemic and economic recession, we need to embrace “Lincolnomics,” that is, building internal improvements that bolster economic progress for everyone. (I explore Lincoln’s marvelous, enduring vision in my new book).

The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City
Destin Jenkins
Summary via publisher (Chicago U. Press)
Indebtedness, like inequality, has become a ubiquitous condition in the United States. Yet few have probed American cities’ dependence on municipal debt or how the terms of municipal finance structure racial privileges, entrench spatial neglect, elide democratic input, and distribute wealth and power. In this passionate and deeply researched book, Destin Jenkins shows in vivid detail how, beyond the borrowing decisions of American cities and beneath their quotidian infrastructure, there lurks a world of politics and finance that is rarely seen, let alone understood.

21st Century Investing: Redirecting Financial Strategies to Drive Systems Change
William Burckart and Steven Lydenberg
Summary via publisher (Berrett-Koehler Publishers)
Two experienced and visionary authors show how institutions and individuals can go beyond conventional and sustainable investing to address complex problems such as income inequality and climate change on a deep, systemic level. It’s time for a new way to think about investing, one that can contend with the complex challenges we face in the 21st century.

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