Book Bits | 2 June 2018

Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall–and Those Fighting to Reverse It
By Steven Brill
Review via Salon
Lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill has just published an important new book, “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall — and Those Fighting to Reverse It,” with an excerpt published by Time magazine last week. His thesis is quite simple at its core, as expressed by Yale Law School professor Daniel Markovits, at the graduation ceremony for the class of 2015. Over the past 50 years, American meritocracy has become, in a way, its opposite, “a mechanism for the dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations. Meritocracy now constitutes a modern-day aristocracy.”

Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy
By Sarah E. Kreps
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Since the Korean War, the United States has increasingly moved away from war taxes. Instead, borrowing-and its comparatively less visible connection with the war-has become a permanent feature of contemporary wars. The move serves leaders well because reducing the apparent burden of war has helped mute public opposition and any decision-making constraints. But by masking accountability, however, the move away from war taxes undermines the basis for democratic restraint in wartime. Contemporary wars have become correspondingly longer and costlier as the public has become disconnected from those burdens. Given the trends identified in Taxing Wars, the recent past-epitomized by our lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq-is likely to be prologue.

EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts
By Ashoka Mody
Review via MoneyWeek
As the current political crisis in Italy shows, the failure to agree a workable vision for the single currency has emboldened populists of both left and right, undermined democracy and entrenched the gap between northern and southern Europe.
Economist Ashoka Mody argues that this is an inevitable result of Europe’s tendency to put utopian political aspirations before economic reality. His book looks at the history of the single currency, from 1969, when it was first proposed, to the present, when its future seems in doubt.

Flawed Capitalism: The Anglo-American Condition and Its Resolution
By David Coates
Summary via publisher (Agenda)
Charting the rise and fall of the social settlements that have shaped and defined the postwar years, Coates traces the history of the two economies through first their New Deal and then their Reaganite periods – ones labelled differently in the UK, but similarly marked by the development first of a Keynesian welfare state and then a Thatcherite neoliberal one. Coates exposes the failings and shortcomings of the Reagan/Thatcher years, showing how the underlying fragility of a settlement based on the weakening of organized labour and the extensive deregulation of business culminated in the financial crisis of 2008.

Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption
By Howard Kunreuther and Michael Useem
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
A profound and insightful look at how company leaders prepare for and respond to shocks and crises that threaten their business. Successful firms strategically manage and are more accurate in their assessment of large-scale risks. Doing so is increasingly challenging given the pace of change, whether financial, technological, regulatory, or environmental. Mastering Catastrophic Risk provides real-world practical insights into how large companies are responding to this new reality and develops a framework for smarter thinking about events that can damage a business.

Social Value Investing: A Management Framework for Effective Partnerships
By Howard W. Buffett and William B. Eimicke
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Social Value Investing presents a new way to approach some of society’s most difficult and intractable challenges. Although many of our world’s problems may seem too great and too complex to solve — inequality, climate change, affordable housing, corruption, healthcare, food insecurity — solutions to these challenges do exist, and will be found through new partnerships bringing together leaders from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. In their new book, Howard W. Buffett and William B. Eimicke present a five-point management framework for developing and measuring the success of such partnerships. Inspired by value investing — one of history’s most successful investment paradigms — this framework provides tools to maximize collaborative efficiency and positive social impact, so that major public programs can deliver innovative, inclusive, and long-lasting solutions.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
By Laura Vanderkam
Podcast with author via
What if we could feel less busy while getting more done? In her new book, Off the Clock, time management expert Laura Vanderkam says: it’s possible! Her TED Talk, How to Gain Control of Your Free Time, has been viewed more than 5 million times and she’s been featured in The New York Times, Fast Company, and Fortune. On this episode, Laura shares the seven principles that will help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed. Start your clocks, these next 30 minutes will have you re-thinking how you spend your time.