Book Bits | 17 July 2015

A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan
By Ben Carlson
Summary via publisher (Bloomberg/Wiley)
A Wealth of Common Sense sheds a refreshing light on investing, and shows you how a simplicity-based framework can lead to better investment decisions. The financial market is a complex system, but that doesn’t mean it requires a complex strategy; in fact, this false premise is the driving force behind many investors’ market “mistakes.” Information is important, but understanding and perspective are the keys to better decision-making. This book describes the proper way to view the markets and your portfolio, and show you the simple strategies that make investing more profitable, less confusing, and less time-consuming.

Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals
By John LeFevre
Interview with author on CNBC
LeFevre was thrust into the spotlight last year when he was outed as the villainous mastermind behind the satirical and wildly popular Twitter account @gselevator, which chronicled comments that were supposedly “overheard in the Goldman Sachs elevators.” (Satirical being the operative word – LeFevre never actually worked at Goldman Sachs.)

On the Cusp: From Population Boom to Bust
By Charles S. Pearson
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
For much of its history, human population growth increased at a glacial pace. The demographic rate only soared about 200 years ago, climaxing in the period 1950-2000. In that 50-year span, the population grew more than it had in the previous 5000 years. Though these raw numbers are impressive, they conceal the fact that the growth rate of population topped out in the 1960s. The apparent population boom may be approaching a population bust, despite our coexistence with more than seven billion people. In On the Cusp, economist Charles Pearson explores the meaning of this population trend from the arc of demographic growth to decline.

Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order
By James Piereson
Review via The Wall Street Journal
In “Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order,” Mr. Piereson argues that America has undergone three earthquakes in its history: the Jeffersonian revolution, which ushered in a long period of dominance of a new anti-Federalist party; the Civil War, which vanquished slavery and set off the ascendancy of northern Republicanism; and the New Deal, which dramatically expanded the size and intrusiveness of the federal government in Americans’ lives. “In each period, an old order collapsed and a new one emerged . . . the resolution of the crisis opened up new possibilities for growth and reform,” he writes. Looking out at our paralyzed and polarized polity, he argues that we are on the brink of yet another collapse—but this one might not have a happy ending.

Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism
Edited by Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman
Summary via publisher (NYU Press)
Millions of laborers, from the Philippines to the Caribbean, performed the work of the United States empire. Forging a global economy connecting the tropics to the industrial center, workers harvested sugar, cleaned hotel rooms, provided sexual favors, and filled military ranks. Placing working men and women at the center of the long history of the U.S. empire, these essays offer new stories of empire that intersect with the “grand narratives” of diplomatic affairs at the national and international levels. Missile defense, Cold War showdowns, development politics, military combat, tourism, and banana economics share something in common—they all have labor histories.

China’s Disruptors: How Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent, and Other Companies are Changing the Rules of Business
By Edward Tse
Review via Publishers Weekly
Tse, founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Company, sheds light on Chinese entrepreneurs and the complex and rapidly expanding market in which they operate in this detailed and insightful primer. Stating that China’s future, economically and politically, rests with its entrepreneurs, Tse shows how, in a country with 2.3 million state-owned companies, innovators like Haier’s Zhang Ruimin and Alibaba’s Jack Ma manage to operate independently of the government.

Getting (More of) What You Want: How the Secrets of Economics and Psychology Can Help You Negotiate Anything, in Business and in Life
By Margaret A. Neale and Thomas Z. Lys
Essay by authors via KelloggInsight
Emotions can affect our ability to negotiate. Lys says this is because we often seek two things simultaneously—emotional satisfaction and value—and that as a negotiation progresses, people tend to confuse the two. “A good way to avoid this is to write down your goals and stick to them,” Lys says. “You should only deviate from these goals if you learn something you could not possibly have known before.”
Surprisingly few people actually follow this rule: Neale and Lys found that up to 25 percent of people agree to an outcome that violates one of the parties’ reservation price. “They get so involved, and they’ve spent so much time negotiating, that they simply cannot walk away.”