Book Bits | 19 October 2019

How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information
By Alberto Cairo
Review via The Economist
His book could not be more timely. Charts and maps pepper traditional and social media more than ever, but there have been few attempts to improve what Mr Cairo calls the “graphicacy” of their consumers. His corrective begins with a chapter on how to read a chart, and this basic notion—that, to be understood, graphs must be read, not merely glanced at—permeates the book. He outlines the essential “scaffolding” of a chart (scales, legend, source and so on), before describing the many ways that data can be built upon it. Only once readers know what a solid structure looks like can they learn to spot a façade.

Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American DreamBy Aaron Glantz
Q&A with author via
More than 10 years after the housing crash that devastated the economy, people are still debating just what happened. A new book tries to make sense of it all, and whether we’re heading for another disaster. Although the economy and the housing market have made a comeback, homeownership remains low, and fears of another real estate meltdown linger. Aaron Glantz, a prize-winning investigative journalist at Reveal News, set out to explain why, in “Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins, Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream.”

Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do about It
By Heather Boushey
Summary via publisher (Harvard U. Press)
Do we have to choose between equality and prosperity? Many think that reducing economic inequality would require such heavy-handed interference with market forces that it would stifle economic growth. Heather Boushey, one of Washington’s most influential economic voices, insists nothing could be further from the truth. Presenting cutting-edge economics with journalistic verve, she shows how rising inequality has become a drag on growth and an impediment to a competitive United States marketplace for employers and employees alike.

Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy
By Matt Stoller
Review via Publishers Weekly
An excessive concentration of power in a few hands has undermined the U.S.’s well-being, according to this passionate, ill-focused history of the country’s economic policy. Stoller, a journalist and former Senate Budget Committee analyst, recounts the rise of antimonopoly policy, culminating in the New Deal regime of regulation and antitrust action to tame or break up overmighty banks and corporations. The result, he contends, was a postwar economy of independent farmers, mom-and-pop retailers, and mid-level manufacturers—a paradise of populist, human-scale capitalism championed by Democratic Congressman Wright Patman, who fought epic legislative battles against Wall Street from the House Banking Committee, and about whom Stoller writes admiringly.

When the President Calls: Conversations with Economic Policymakers
By Simon W. Bowmaker
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
What is it like to sit in the Oval Office and discuss policy with the president? To know that the decisions made will affect hundreds of millions of people? To know that the wrong advice could be calamitous? When the President Calls presents interviews with thirty-five economic policymakers who served presidents from Nixon to Trump. These officials worked in the executive branch in a variety of capacities—the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of the Treasury, and the National Economic Council—but all had direct access to the policymaking process and can offer insights about the difficult tradeoffs made on economic policy. The interviews shed new light, for example, on the thinking behind the Reagan tax cuts, the economic factors that cost George H. W. Bush a second term, the constraints facing policymakers during the financial crisis of 2008, the differences in work styles between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the Trump administration’s early budget process.

The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay
By Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez
Review via CNBC
The ideal tax rate for the richest 1% of Americans is about 75% — more than twice the current rates, according to the economist advising Sen. Elizabeth Warren on her tax plans.
Gabriel Zucman, the University of California at Berkeley economist who is advising Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders on their wealth tax proposals, told CNBC Tuesday that there is an “optimal” tax rate for the rich when considering tax policy. The optimal rate would be high enough to maximize revenue from the economy’s winners and reduce inequality, but not so high that it would lead to widespread evasion or reduced productivity among the wealthy.

Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All
By Deirdre Nansen McCloskey
Summary via publisher (Yale University Press)
The greatest challenges facing humankind, according to Deirdre McCloskey, are poverty and tyranny, both of which hold people back. Arguing for a return to true liberal values, this engaging and accessible book develops, defends, and demonstrates how embracing the ideas first espoused by eighteenth-century philosophers like Locke, Smith, Voltaire, and Wollstonecraft is good for everyone.

The Case Against Socialism
By Rand Paul
Interview with author via Fox News
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., saus his new book, “The Case Against Socialism,” will remind Americans why capitalism is the system that economically lifts all boats.
Young Americans have increasingly warmed to socialism because they have forgotten what governments were most closely associated with that system, Paul claimed Monday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

On Trend: The Business of Forecasting the Future
By Devon Powers
Summary via publisher (University of Illinois Press)
Trends have become a commodity—an element of culture in their own right and the very currency of our cultural life. Consumer culture relies on a new class of professionals who explain trends, predict trends, and in profound ways even manufacture trends. On Trend delves into one of the most powerful forces in global consumer culture. From forecasting to cool hunting to design thinking, the work done by trend professionals influences how we live, work, play, shop, and learn. Devon Powers’s provocative insights open up how the business of the future kindles exciting opportunity even as its practices raise questions about an economy increasingly built on nonstop disruption and innovation. Merging industry history with vivid portraits of today’s trend visionaries, Powers reveals how trends took over, what it means for cultural change, and the price all of us pay to see—and live—the future.

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