Book Bits | 2.23.13

Sand in the Gears: How Public Policy Has Crippled American Manufacturing
By Andrew Smith
Summary via publisher, Potomac Books
American manufacturing has been on the decline for at least two generations; that fact is plain to any observer who travels through the Rust Belt of the Midwest, where the closing of steel plants and automobile factories has created ghost towns that dot the landscape. It is also clear in the dormant New England textile mills, whose owners surrendered their production first to cheaper mills in the Southeast before they, in turn, lost out to Asian labor.What caused this calamity, and what can be done about it? Andrew Smith argues that we lost our manufacturing not to forces beyond our control, such as globalization and cheaper labor overseas, but as the result of misguided policies that are well within our abilities to reform for the benefit of manufacturing.

Rising Tide: Is Growth in Emerging Economies Good for the United States?
By Lawrence Edwards and Robert Lawrence
Commentary by authors via Harvard Business Review
Open borders allow companies to grow in foreign markets and, simultaneously, ensure that businesses remain competitive at home. That’s why U.S. policy makers have traditionally urged developing countries to reduce tariff and nontariff barriers, often arousing their ire. Few could dispute that logic when, from 1980 to 2000, the world’s biggest economy grew just as rapidly as did all other nations on average.
However, the skeptics about free trade have been gaining influence over the past decade. The longest post-War expansion in America, from 1991 to 2000, ended when the dot-com bust led to a recession in which the U.S. manufacturing sector shed almost 3 million jobs.
Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
By Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
Review via The LA Times
Overall, Bronson and Merryman conclude that most of us naturally rise to the occasion when we compete. But they also believe that most of us could probably improve. “Whether you think you’re a good competitor, or think you’re not,” Merryman says, “knowing the science of competition, understanding the mechanisms, can help you in tense situations. You’ll know what to do and how to be better at it.”
Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die
By Eric Siegel
Summary via publisher, Wiley
You have been predicted — by companies, governments, law enforcement, hospitals, and universities. Their computers say, “I knew you were going to do that!” These institutions are seizing upon the power to predict whether you’re going to click, buy, lie, or die. Why? For good reason: predicting human behavior combats financial risk, fortifies healthcare, conquers spam, toughens crime fighting, and boosts sales. How? Prediction is powered by the world’s most potent, booming unnatural resource: data. Accumulated in large part as the by-product of routine tasks, data is the unsalted, flavorless residue deposited en masse as organizations churn away. Surprise! This heap of refuse is a gold mine. Big data embodies an extraordinary wealth of experience from which to learn.
Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It
By Morten Jerven
Summary via publisher, Cornell University Press
One of the most urgent challenges in African economic development is to devise a strategy for improving statistical capacity. Reliable statistics, including estimates of economic growth rates and per-capita income, are basic to the operation of governments in developing countries and vital to nongovernmental organizations and other entities that provide financial aid to them. Rich countries and international financial institutions such as the World Bank allocate their development resources on the basis of such data. The paucity of accurate statistics is not merely a technical problem; it has a massive impact on the welfare of citizens in developing countries.
The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis
By Ben Bernanke
Summary via publisher, Princeton University Press
In 2012, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, gave a series of lectures about the Federal Reserve and the 2008 financial crisis, as part of a course at George Washington University on the role of the Federal Reserve in the economy. In this unusual event, Bernanke revealed important background and insights into the central bank’s crucial actions during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Taken directly from these historic talks, The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis offers insight into the guiding principles behind the Fed’s activities and the lessons to be learned from its handling of recent economic challenges.
I Have a Strategy (No You Don’t): The Illustrated Guide to Strategy
By Howell J. Malham, Jr
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Every day, millions of professionals around the world discuss strategy, and they assume that everyone else in the room defines “strategy” the same way. But they don’t. Howell J. Malham Jr. has created a book that goes straight to the heart of the issue. Through the largely facetious dialog of two colorful characters, this clever, irreverent book seeks to get everyone in the room on the same page using the same definitions for the same words. This is a crucial first step to any business proposition, yet it is often the most overlooked.