Book Bits | 22 November 2014

Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?
By Karen Dawisha
Review via The Wall Street Journal
Systemic embezzlement, skimming, fraud and personal enrichment through power—these have long been assumed about Vladimir Putin ‘s inner circle, but they have not been comprehensively laid out until now. Karen Dawisha’s book made headlines in April, five months before it was published, when Cambridge University Press backed out of publication in Britain, fearing English libel laws. “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?” delivers precisely the kind of meticulously researched evidence one would hope for in a work preceded by such controversy.

The Rise and Fall of Global Austerity
By E. Ray Canterbery
Summary via publisher (World Scientific)
Since its onset in late 2007, few expected the Great Recession to be protracted for over half a decade across the world. The Rise and Fall of Global Austerity explains the origins and history of austerity, severe implications of the idea of it and how the continuation of the Great Recession was a by-product of austerity measures. Covering austerity policies that are in place in the United States, Europe, and other countries, E Ray Canterbery explains why austerity is detrimental for economies, economic policy and the general health of populations around the world. He highlights the connection between public debt and austerity policies and shows how the austerity lobby works in the United States to achieve its goals. Besides presenting a critique of the rationale for austerity, Canterbery also recommends monetary, fiscal, and incomes policy remedies, and stresses why economic growth and full employment are more ideal and pragmatic antidotes to the Great Recession.

The Bitcoin Big Bang: How Alternative Currencies Are About to Change the World
By Brian Kelly
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
The Bitcoin Big Bang is a guide to navigating the uncharted territory of digital currency. Written by CNBC contributor Brian Kelly, this book goes beyond Bitcoin 101 to explain how this transformative technology is about to change the world. Digital currency is thrown into perspective against the history of payment systems and its own evolution, as readers are invited to explore the ways in which this technology is already changing the way business gets done. Readers gain insight into the mechanisms behind Bitcoin, and an expert perspective on digital currency’s effect on the future of money and the economic implications of the Bitcoin revolution.

Doug Kass on the Market: A Life on TheStreet
By Doug Kass
Interview with author via Yahoo Finance
At the 2013 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, aka “The Woodstock of Capitalism.” tens of thousands gathered to show their devotion and affection for the company and its founder, Warren Buffett.
But one invited guest came not to praise “the Oracle of Omaha” but to bury him — at least rhetorically. Famed short-seller Doug Kass, managing partner of Seabreeze Partners, was invited by Buffett to play the role of “credentialed bear” and try to dissuade the crowd from owning Berkshire stock. It was a “professional highlight” Kass describes in his new book Doug Kass on the Market: A Life on The Street.
“I was kind of Daniel in the Lion’s den,” Kass explains in the accompanying video. “With 55,000 of [Buffett’s] devotees…trying to stump him with original hard-hitting questions. But at the same time I wanted to be respectful because I worship at his investment altar.”

MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
By Tony Robbins
Review by Barry Ritholtz via Bloomberg
On Yahoo, Robbins revealed a version of what he described as “Ray Dalio’s All Weather” portfolio, claiming annualized returns of 9.7 percent from 1984 through 2013. This version is rather different from the portfolios Dalio runs at hedge fund Bridgewater Associates: it has no leverage, and uses only four asset classes as opposed to 15 noncorrelated holdings.

All Weather Portfolio
30 percent stocks
15 percent in seven- to 10-year Treasuries
40 percent in 20- to 25-year Treasuries
7.5 percent in gold
7.5 percent in commodities

The most obvious problem with this portfolio are the bonds: A back test of a 55 percent bond portfolio — after the world’s greatest bond bull market in history — reveals that this is a form-fitted asset allocation.

Uncertainty, Expectations, and Financial Instability: Reviving Allais’s Lost Theory of Psychological Time
By Eric Barthalon
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Eric Barthalon applies the neglected theory of psychological time and memory decay of Nobel Prize–winning economist Maurice Allais (1911–2010) to model investors’ psychology in the present context of recurrent financial crises. Shaped by the behavior of the demand for money during episodes of hyperinflation, Allais’s theory proves economic agents perceive the flow of clocks’ time and forget the past at a context-dependent pace: rapidly in the presence of persistent and accelerating inflation and slowly in the event of the opposite situation. Barthalon recasts Allais’s work as a general theory of “expectations” under uncertainty, closing the gap between economic theory and investors’ behavior.

The United States in a Warming World: The Political Economy of Government, Business, and Public Responses to Climate Change
By Thomas L. Brewer
Summary via publisher (Cambridge University Press)
Addressing the widespread desire to better understand how climate change issues are addressed in the United States, this book provides an unparalleled analysis of features of the US economic and political system that are essential to understanding its responses to climate change. The introductory chapter presents a firm historical context, with the remainder of the book offering balanced and factual discussions of government, business and public responses to issues of energy policies, congressional activity on climate change, and US government involvement in international conferences. Abundant statistical evidence illustrates key concepts and supports analytic themes such as market failures, free riders, and the benefits and costs of alternative courses of action among industry sectors and geographic areas within the US.

How Does My Country Grow?: Economic Advice Through Story-Telling
By Brian Pinto
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Written by a former World Bank economist, How Does My Country Grow? distils growth policy lessons from the author’s first-hand experience in Poland, Kenya, India, and Russia, and his contributions to the economic policy debates that followed the emerging market crises of 1997 to 2001, extending up to the global financial crisis of 2008-09.