Book Bits | 17 August 2019

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
By Christopher Leonard
Review via The New Yorker
If there is any lingering uncertainty that the Koch brothers are the primary sponsors of climate-change doubt in the United States, it ought to be put to rest by the publication of “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” by the business reporter Christopher Leonard. This seven-hundred-and-four-page tome doesn’t break much new political ground, but it shows the extraordinary behind-the-scenes influence that Charles and David Koch have exerted to cripple government action on climate change.

Taming Uncertainty
By Ralph Hertwig, et al.
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
How do humans navigate uncertainty, continuously making near-effortless decisions and predictions even under conditions of imperfect knowledge, high complexity, and extreme time pressure? Taming Uncertainty argues that the human mind has developed tools to grapple with uncertainty. Unlike much previous scholarship in psychology and economics, this approach is rooted in what is known about what real minds can do. Rather than reducing the human response to uncertainty to an act of juggling probabilities, the authors propose that the human cognitive system has specific tools for dealing with different forms of uncertainty. They identify three types of tools: simple heuristics, tools for information search, and tools for harnessing the wisdom of others. This set of strategies for making predictions, inferences, and decisions constitute the mind’s adaptive toolbox.

Invest for Good: A Healthier World and a Wealthier You
By by Mark Mobius, et al.
Summary via publisher (Bloomsbury)
Investors are placing increased emphasis on capital allocation methods to achieve their desired social, environmental and financial objectives, and are targeting investments that not only facilitate economic growth in countries around the world but also do good in terms of aiding human development–from cleaner environments to safer products and better employment practices. At the same time, there is considerable evidence that if companies adhere to ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) standards, they will outperform companies who do not. But how do individuals–rather than institutional investors–invest using ESG criteria? And just how complex are the procedures? This new book, written by investment guru Mark Mobius and his expert team, is full of entertaining and informative anecdotes from the authors’ day-to-day experiences in the world of sustainable investment.

The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future
By Matt Sheehan
Interview with author (via KCBS)
When you think about the US-China relationship these days, what probably comes to mind first would be things like tariffs, tense trade talks, and perhaps also some high stakes political wrangling. But the great halls of power aren’t the only places where international relations play out: there’s also the smaller venues like the American universities that enroll Chinese students; the real estate projects that receive Chinese investment; and the tech companies sharing talent across the Pacific. And it turns out a lot of the most interesting venues of exchange are actually located right here, in California. On this edition of KCBS In Depth we speak to journalist and author Matt Sheehan, who points out that while the lion’s share of our attention goes toward understanding how a few very important people in Washington and Beijing are getting along, there’s a whole lot more to international relations than that and to understand just what that is, a good place to start is the Golden State.

Market Affect and the Rhetoric of Political Economic Debates
By Catherine Chaput
Summary via publisher (South Carolina University Press)
What explains the “triumph of capitalism”? Why do people so often respond positively to discussions favoring it while shutting down arguments against it? Overwhelmingly theories regarding capitalism’s resilience have focused on individual choice bolstered by careful rhetorical argumentation. In this penetrating study, however, Catherine Chaput shows that something more than choice is at work in capitalism’s ability to thrive in public practice and imagination—more even than material resources (power) and cultural imperialism (ideology). That “something,” she contends, is market affect.

Risk: Living on the Edge
By Michael E. Tennenbaum with Donna Beec
Press release for book publication
Risk-taker Michael E. Tennenbaum has contributed mightily to American financial institutions, business, and society. A financier, adventurer, and philanthropist, in his debut book, Risk: Living on the Edge (RosettaBooks/August 13, 2019/$34.99), he delivers intriguing insider details on how “impossible” deals are completed, along with an inspiring guide to applying risk-taking successfully to your business and personal life. Tennenbaum takes us behind the scenes at Bear Stearns, illuminating the end of that great American success story as never before disclosed. He imparts insights from investment banking, risk arbitrage, and options; how he employed risk to achieve competitive advantage after leaving Bear Stearns and starting his own firms; the inner machinations of his high-stakes deals; and the backstory to innovations he created.

Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost
By Caitlin Zaloom
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
The struggle to pay for college is one of the defining features of middle-class life in America today. At kitchen tables all across the country, parents agonize over whether to burden their children with loans or to sacrifice their own financial security by taking out a second mortgage or draining their retirement savings. Indebted takes readers into the homes of middle-class families throughout the nation to reveal the hidden consequences of student debt and the ways that financing college has transformed family life.

Behavioral Economics and Nuclear Weapons
Edited by Anne I. Harrington and Jeffrey W. Knopf
Summary via publisher (Georgia University Press)
Recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience have improved our understanding of why our decision making processes fail to match standard social science assumptions about rationality. As researchers such as Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and Richard Thaler have shown, people often depart in systematic ways from the predictions of the rational actor model of classic economic thought because of the influence of emotions, cognitive biases, an aversion to loss, and other strong motivations and values. These findings about the limits of rationality have formed the basis of behavioral economics, an approach that has attracted enormous attention in recent years. This collection of essays applies the insights of behavioral economics to the study of nuclear weapons policy. Behavioral economics gives us a more accurate picture of how people think and, as a consequence, of how they make decisions about whether to acquire or use nuclear arms.

Wealth Mismanagement: A Wall Street Insider On the Dirty Secrets of Financial Advisers and How to Protect Your Portfolio
By Ed Butowsky with Dennis Kneale
Summary via
Wall Street financial advisers are supposed to build and preserve your wealth, yet they are untrained in portfolio construction and how to contain risk and bulletproof your investments. They charge high fees and sometimes put their own interests ahead of yours. Now Ed Butowsky, a Wall Street insider who spent two decades as one of the top producers at the fabled firm of Morgan Stanley & Co., breaks from the pack to reveal the flaws, fibs and failings of financial advisers. To fix this mess, he has created the new CHIP Score to empower you to evaluate the potential for Risk & Reward in your portfolio and grade your adviser—before the next meltdown.