Book Bits: 22 April 2023

Our Lives in Their Portfolios: Why Asset Managers Own the World
Brett Christophers
Summary via publisher (Verso)
Banks have taken a backseat since the global financial crisis over a decade ago. Today, our new financial masters are asset managers, like Blackstone and BlackRock. And they don’t just own financial assets. In this eye-opening follow-up to Rentier Capitalism, Brett Christophers peels back the veil on “asset manager society.” Asset managers, he shows, are unlike traditional owners of housing and other essential infrastructure. Buying and selling these life-supporting assets at a dizzying pace, the crux of their business model is not long-term investment and careful custodianship but making quick profits for themselves and the investors that back them.

Scarcity: A History from the Origins of Capitalism to the Climate Crisis
Fredrik Albritton Jonsson and Carl Wennerlind
Summary via publisher (Harvard U. Press)
Modern economics presumes a particular view of scarcity, in which human beings are innately possessed of infinite desires and society must therefore facilitate endless growth and consumption irrespective of nature’s limits. Yet as Fredrik Albritton Jonsson and Carl Wennerlind show, this vision of scarcity is historically novel and was not inevitable even in the age of capitalism. Rather, it reflects the costly triumph of infinite-growth ideologies across centuries of European economic thought—at the expense of traditions that sought to live within nature’s constraints.

The Imperfectionists: Strategic Mindsets for Uncertain Times
Robert McLean and Charles Conn
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In this sequel to their Amazon-bestseller, Bulletproof Problem Solving, Conn and McLean introduce a novel approach to strategic problem solving. Based on a decade of research and 30 new case studies, The Imperfectionists posits a dynamic approach to developing organizational direction under uncertainty based on harnessing six reinforcing strategic mindsets, which they call curiosity, dragonfly eye, occurrent behaviour, collective wisdom, imperfectionism, and show and tell.

Welfare for Markets: A Global History of Basic Income (The Life of Ideas)
Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas
Summary via publisher (Chicago U. Press)
The idea of a government paying its citizens to keep them out of poverty—now known as basic income—is hardly new. Often dated as far back as ancient Rome, basic income’s modern conception truly emerged in the late nineteenth century. Yet as one of today’s most controversial proposals, it draws supporters from across the political spectrum. In this eye-opening work, Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas trace basic income from its rise in American and British policy debates following periods of economic tumult to its modern relationship with technopopulist figures in Silicon Valley. They chronicle how the idea first arose in the United States and Europe as a market-friendly alternative to the postwar welfare state and how interest in the policy has grown in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis and COVID-19 crash.

Intelligent Safety: How to Protect Your Connected Family from Big Cybercrime
Hari Ravichandran and Jeffrey Katzenberg
Summary via publisher (Skyhorse)
Intelligent Safety: How to Protect Your Connected Family from Big Cybercrime teaches how we can put our families’ online safety on autopilot and regain our peace of mind. It provides families with the tools and knowledge they need to create a personalized, proactive defense against cybercriminals. From identifying the risks of your teen’s secret online life to safeguarding your family finances to defending the vulnerabilities of your aging parents, Intelligent Safety is the last guide you’ll need to beat cyber predators at their own game.

Climate Risks: An Investor’s Field Guide to Identification and Assessment
Bob Buhr
Summary via Amazon
In Climate Risks: An Investor’s Field Guide to Identification and Assessment, financial analyst Bob Buhr delivers a risk-based framework for classifying and measuring potential climate risks at the firm level, and their potential financial impacts. The author presents a “climate risk taxonomy” that encompasses a broad range of physical, transition and natural capital risks that may impact a firm’s financial profile.

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