Book Bits | 17 October 2015

Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe
By Greg Ip
Summary via publisher (Hachette/Little, Brown)
How the very things we create to protect ourselves, like money market funds or anti-lock brakes, end up being the biggest threats to our safety and wellbeing. We have learned a staggering amount about human nature and disaster — yet we keep having car crashes, floods, and financial crises. Partly this is because the success we have at making life safer enables us to take bigger risks. As our cities, transport systems, and financial markets become more interconnected and complex, so does the potential for catastrophe. How do we stay safe? Should we? What if our attempts are exposing us even more to the very risks we are avoiding? Would acceptance of danger make us more secure? Is there such a thing as foolproof? In Foolproof, Greg Ip presents a macro theory of human nature and disaster that explains how we can keep ourselves safe in our increasingly dangerous world.

Wall Streeters: The Creators and Corruptors of American Finance
By Edward Morris
Review via Reading The Markets
Edward Morris sets out to do for American finance what Paul de Kruif did for biology (The Microbe Hunters) and Robert Heilbroner for economics (The Worldly Philosophers). Through the stories of fourteen influential men, he traces “the development of financial innovations, the growth of financial markets, and the causes of financial crises.” For a variety of reasons having nothing to do with the quality of Morris’s book, Wall Streeters: The Creators and Corruptors of American Finance (Columbia Business School Publishing, 2015) will probably not attain the stature of the works he emulated. But it puts a human face on Wall Street as few finance textbooks do. After all, finance is not simply numbers; it’s also, and even more so, people.

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire
By Shane White
Summary via publisher (St. Martin’s Press)
In Prince of Darkness, a groundbreaking and vivid account, eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger than life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. He wheeled and dealed in the lily white business world, he married a white woman, he bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, he owned railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and generally set his white contemporaries teeth on edge when he wasn’t just plain outsmarting them. An important contribution to American history, Hamilton’s life offers a way into considering, from the unusual perspective of a black man, subjects that are usually seen as being quintessentially white, totally segregated from the African American past.

Green Capital: A New Perspective on Growth
By Christian de Perthuis and Pierre-André Jouvet
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Many believe economic growth is incompatible with ecological preservation. Green Capital challenges this argument by shifting our focus away from the scarcity of raw materials and toward the deterioration of the great natural regulatory functions (such as the climate system, the water cycle, and biodiversity).
Although we can find substitutes for scarce natural resources, we cannot replace a natural regulatory system, which is incredibly complex. It is therefore critical that we introduce a new price into the economy that measures the costs of damage to these regulatory functions. This change in perspective justifies such innovations as the carbon tax, which addresses not the scarcity of carbon but the inability of the atmosphere to absorb large amounts of carbon without upsetting the climate system. Brokering a sustainable peace between ecology and the economy, Green Capital describes a range of valuation schemes and their contribution to the goals of green capitalism, proposing a new approach to natural resources that benefits both businesses and the environment.

The Value of Money
By Ellen R. Feingold
Summary via Amazon
The Value of Money celebrates the power of using monetary objects to explore history. This richly illustrated book features over 175 objects from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s National Numismatic Collection. With objects from every inhabited continent, spanning more than 2,600 years, this book showcases the National Numismatic Collection’s unique strengths, including the geographic and chronological diversity of the collection and the stunning rarities it contains. The companion volume to a major exhibition of the same name, this book examines the origins of money, new monetary technologies, the political and cultural messages money conveys, numismatic art and design, and the practice of collecting money.

By Matt Towery
Review via The Washington Times (Newt Gingrich)
Newsvesting is exactly what it sounds like. It is a combination of news analysis and investing. Towery developed “Newsvesting” after studying Warren Buffett’s habit of constantly reading the news and analyzing information that is available to anyone who is interested.