Book Bits | 18 April 2015

Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower
By Henry M. Paulson
Interview with author on CNBC
Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said Wednesday the growth model powering China’s economy is running out of steam. Paulson, author of the new book “Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower,” said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the world’s second-largest economy is too reliant on exports and municipal debt to build infrastructure.

Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World
By Steven Quartz and Anette Asp
Summary via publisher (Macmillan)
If you have ever wondered why SUVs replaced minivans, how one rap song turned the cognac industry upside down, or what gives Levi’s jeans their iconic allure, look no further-in Cool, Steven Quartz and Anette Asp finally explain the fascinating science behind unexpected trends and enduring successes…. Quartz and Asp bring together groundbreaking findings in neuroscience, economics, and evolutionary biology to present a new understanding of why we consume and how our concepts of what is “cool”-be it designer jeans, smartphones, or craft beer-help drive the global economy.

Why We Can’t Afford the Rich
By Andrew Sayer
Summary via publisher (Policy Press)
As inequalities widen and the effects of austerity deepen, in many countries the wealth of the rich has soared. Why we can’t afford the rich exposes the unjust and dysfunctional mechanisms that allow the top 1% to siphon off wealth produced by others, through the control of property and money. Leading social scientist Andrew Sayer shows how over the last three decades the rich worldwide have increased their ability to hide their wealth, create indebtedness and expand their political influence.

The Warren Buffett Philosophy of Investment: How a Combination of Value Investing and Smart Acquisitions Drives Extraordinary Success
By Elena Chirkova
Review via Reading The Markets
The Warren Buffett Philosophy of Investment: How a Combination of Value Investing and Smart Acquisitions Drives Extraordinary Success (McGraw-Hill, 2015) is a carefully constructed analysis of the key elements of Buffett’s investing prowess. The author relies heavily on previously published work, but she uses this material to present one of the most coherent accounts of Buffett’s achievement that I have read.

Smart Money: How High-Stakes Financial Innovation is Reshaping Our World—For the Better
By Andrew Palmer
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Palmer, the head of data journalism at the Economist, disagrees with those who see innovations like derivatives as responsible for recent financial bubbles and crashes, and he argues that the world needs even more financial innovation. In a survey of monetary and financial history, the author examines the development of financial products. These include advances in peer-to-peer lending, which remove banks as middlemen in transactions that are made possible, in part, by mathematized search functions related to data mining. Palmer identifies companies across the world—e.g., Lending Club, Transfer Wise and Zest Finance—that are moving into areas where banks and other lenders provide either predatory or very little service to their customers. Nonleveraged methods of financing, providing cheaper short-term finance using nontraditional forms of collateral, are being developed for those qualified—e.g., student lending, payday loans, housing and retirement finance. Palmer traces these innovative methods to the tradition of financial mathematics begun as early as the 13th century with Leonardo Fibonacci.

Myths of the Oil Boom: American National Security in a Global Energy Market
By Steve A. Yetiv
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
The last decade has seen a far-reaching revolution in the oil industry, both in the US and globally. By some measures, America is on pace to become the world’s biggest oil producer, an outcome that was inconceivable just a few years ago. But what does this shift really mean for American and global security? In Myths of the Oil Boom, Steve A. Yetiv, an award-winning expert on the geopolitics of oil, takes stock of our new era of heightened petroleum production and sets out to demolish both the old myths and misconceptions about oil and the new ones that are quickly proliferating. As he explains, increased production in the US will not lead to a major reduction in longer term oil prices, even if it has contributed to their precipitous fall in the short run.

The Racket: A Rogue Reporter vs. the Masters of the Universe
By Matt Kennard
Summary via pubisher (Zed Books)
While working at the Financial Times, investigative journalist Matt Kennard uncovered a scam – a deception and rip-off of immense proportions. From slanging matches with Henry Kissinger to afternoon coffees with the man who captured Che Guevara, Kennard’s unbridled access over four years to the crème de la crème of the global elite left him with only one conclusion. The world as we know it is run by a squad of cigar-smoking men with big guns, big cash and a reach much too close to home. But, through encounters with high-profile opponents of the racket, such as Thom Yorke, Damon Albarn, Gael García Bernal and others, Kennard shows that human decency remains. Now it’s time for the world’s citizens to also uncover the racket.

Confronting Capitalism: Real Solutions for a Troubled Economic System
By Philip Kotler
Review via The Financial Times
Critics of capitalism are not in short supply. Most are well-intentioned, but many are badly informed and make their arguments so poorly that capitalism can ignore them. But when the critic is Philip Kotler, capitalism needs to sit up and take notice.
Kotler, a professor at Kellogg School of Management, is best known to generations of students as one of the authors of Marketing Management, the textbook that has educated managers and leaders around the world about marketing over several editions. Less well known is that Kotler trained as a classical economist. His tutors included Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson, and he knows the strengths and weaknesses of modern economic theory as well as anyone alive.