Book Bits | 21 April 2017

Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead
By Kenneth W. Gronbach with M.J. Moye
Interview with author via
Q: Your book is about predicting the future with accuracy. Can you explain why demographics provide clear evidence of where we’re headed?
A: Demographics precipitates economics — not the other way around. Commerce is reliant on market size, and market size is determined by demographics. Cultural shifts are determined by demographic changes. Demography is dependent on live births, deaths and migration, and so is politics. People are easy to count. It is math. So much of what people influence is determined by their number, their age, and where they are.

Money: Free and Unfree
By George Selgin
Summary via publisher (Cato Institute)
Why has the United States experienced so many crippling financial crises, along with other sorts of monetary and financial troubles, throughout its history? The popular answer: U.S. banks have long been poorly regulated, subjecting the economy to the whims of selfish interest, which must be tempered by more government regulation and centralization. In Money: Free and Unfree George Selgin turns this conventional wisdom on its head. In essays covering U.S. monetary policy since before the Civil War, he painstakingly traces financial disorder to its source: misguided government regulation, dispelling the myth of the Federal Reserve as a bulwark of stability.

Kill It to Save It: An Autopsy of Capitalism’s Triumph over Democracy
By Corey Dolgon
Summary via publisher (Policy Press)
How have powerful Americans convinced their fellow citizens to support policies beneficial only to the wealthy? Why have so many given up on public education, safe food and safe streets, living wages – even on democracy itself? Kill it to Save it lays bare the hypocrisy of US political discourse by documenting the story of capitalism’s triumph over democracy. As the Progressive Left tries to understand how President Trump came to power, Corey Dolgon documents his historical, political and cultural road map. Dolgon argues that American citizens now accept policies that destroy the public sector and promote political stories that feel right “in the gut”, regardless of science or facts.

The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States
By Benjamin C. Waterhouse
Review via Kirkus Review
A historian makes his case that the story of private enterprise has been undervalued as a window into the history of the United States. In a summary of American history that is simultaneously chronological and thematic, Waterhouse (History/Univ. of North Carolina; Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA, 2014) discusses the commercial aspects of slavery, the rise of factories in the U.S., the development of an impersonal corporate structure for business, battles between government regulators and business executives, and the rise and decline of labor unions, among other threads.

Janesville: An American Story
By Amy Goldstein
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
A Washington Post reporter’s intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors’ assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin—Paul Ryan’s hometown—and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class. This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills—but it’s not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.

The Power of Economists within the State
By Johan Christensen
Summary via publisher (Stanford University Press)
The spread of market-oriented reforms has been one of the major political and economic trends of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Governments have, to varying degrees, adopted policies that have led to deregulation: the liberalization of trade; the privatization of state entities; and low-rate, broad-base taxes. Yet some countries embraced these policies more than others. Johan Christensen examines one major contributor to this disparity: the entrenchment of U.S.-trained, neoclassical economists in political institutions the world over.

Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics
By Kim Phillips-Fein.
Review via Publishers Weekly
Phillips-Fein (Invisible Hands), professor of history at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, makes municipal bonds exciting in this painstakingly researched revisionist account of the 1970s fiscal crisis that shook New York to its core. She argues that, although the city would go on to emerge from the crisis seemingly unscathed, its robust brand of social democratic politics would be lost forever. Paced like a thriller and extremely well written, the book chronicles the slow descent of the city into a fiscal abyss and its unlikely rescue by a group of hardened bureaucrats, altruistic investment bankers, and political power players who formed the Municipal Assistance Corporation.