Book Bits: 22 October 2022

MegaThreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Imperil Our Future, And How to Survive Them
Nouriel Roubini
Review via Financial Times
At least there were only four horsemen of the apocalypse. But reflecting today’s rampant inflation, Nouriel Roubini now identifies 10 so-called megathreats, spanning various economic, financial, political, technological and environmental disasters. “Sound policies might partially or fully avert one or more of them, but collectively, calamity seems near certain,” Roubini jauntily concludes. “Expect many dark days, my friends.”
Readers of a nervous disposition may want to file this book in the bin before they turn a page. Those braced for an ice bath of pessimism may profit from its gloomy insights about the state of the world. Roubini’s warnings may be alarmingly scary, but they are also disturbingly plausible. One only prays that policymakers have better solutions than the author unearths.

Homecoming: The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World
Rana Foroohar
Q&A with author via
In a new book, “Homecoming: The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World,” financial journalist Rana Foroohar explores what it would really take to localize economies in this country.
“These globalized, very fragile, highly ‘efficient’ supply chains are enriching Wall Street but starving Main Street and driving small farmers out of business,” Foroohar says.
Rana talks to people like Joe Maxwell, an independent farmer in Missouri who says he’s seen, firsthand, how globalized, corporate ownership has changed food production.
“Their whole purpose in life is to make all they can for a shareholder, for the investor. That’s why we have to have government,” Maxwell says. “We need safeguards. We need safeguards in place that allow the market to work so that opportunity exists for people.”

The Next American Economy: Nation, State, and Markets in an Uncertain World
Samuel Gregg
Summary via publisher (Encounter Books)
One of America’s greatest success stories is its economy. For more than a century, it has been the envy of the world. The opportunity it generates has inspired millions of people to want to become American. Today, however, America’s economy is at a crossroads. Many have lost confidence in the country’s commitment to economic liberty. Across the political spectrum, many want the government to play an even greater role in the economy via protectionism, industrial policy, stakeholder capitalism, or even quasi-socialist policies. Traditional defenders of markets have struggled to respond to these challenges in fresh ways. Then there is a resurgent China bent on eclipsing America’s place in the world. At stake is not only the future of the world’s biggest economy, but the economic liberty that remains central to America’s identity as a nation.

The Globalization Myth: Why Regions Matter
Shannon K O’Neil
Review via NPR
In The Globalization Myth: Why Regions Matter, author Shannon O’Neil argues that it’s a huge mistake for the United States to turn against free trade and try to go it alone in the global economy. Instead, she argues, for the nation to become more globally competitive and create good jobs, we must find a middle ground on trade, embracing Canada and Mexico and working with them to beef up regional supply chains and our collective productive capacity. Despite the popular use of the term “globalization,” O’Neil argues, what we’ve seen more than anything else over the past four decades is regionalization.

The 9.9 Percent: The New Aristocracy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture
Matthew Stewart
Review via Vox
It’s easy to place the blame for America’s economic woes on the 0.1 percent. They hoard a disproportionate amount of wealth and are taking an increasingly and unacceptably large part of the country’s economic growth. To quote Bernie Sanders, the “billionaire class” is thriving while many more people are struggling. Or to channel Elizabeth Warren, the top 0.1 percent holds a similar amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent — a staggering figure.
There’s a space between that 0.1 percent and the 90 percent that’s often overlooked: the 9.9 percent that resides between them. They’re the group in focus in a new book by philosopher Matthew Stewart (no relation), The 9.9 percent: The New Aristocracy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture.

Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19
Gary Rivlin
Interview with author viq
The pandemic shutdowns forced millions of small businesses across the country to close up shop or barely hang on. Journalist Gary Rivlin spent months following a group of small business owners struggling to survive the pandemic in his new book, “Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19.” His book chronicles the personal and financial risks the owners had to take amid a contentious presidential election, confusing government aid programs and contradictory safety guidelines. Rivlin joins us to talk about how the pandemic forever changed how small businesses operate and how they are faring now.

The Equality Machine: Harnessing Digital Technology for a Brighter, More Inclusive Future
Orly Lobel
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs Books)
At a time when AI and digital platforms are under fire, Orly Lobel, a renowned tech policy scholar, defends technology as a powerful tool we can harness to achieve equality and a better future. Much has been written about the challenges tech presents to equality and democracy. But we can either criticize big data and automation or steer it to do better. Lobel makes a compelling argument that while we cannot stop technological development, we can direct its course according to our most fundamental values. With provocative insights in every chapter, Lobel masterfully shows that digital technology frequently has a comparative advantage over humans in detecting discrimination, correcting historical exclusions, subverting long-standing stereotypes, and addressing the world’s thorniest problems: climate, poverty, injustice, literacy, accessibility, speech, health, and safety.

The Primacy of Doubt: From Quantum Physics to Climate Change, How the Science of Uncertainty Can Help Us Understand Our Chaotic World
Tim Palmer
Review via Scientific American
Certainty is the currency of politics and social media, where boiling down complex issues into simple, bite-sized nuggets is now the norm. In his new book, The Primacy of Doubt, climate physicist Tim Palmer argues that the science of uncertainty is woefully underappreciated by the public even though it is central to nearly every field of research. Embracing uncertainty and harnessing “the science of chaos,” he says, could help us unlock new understandings of the world, from climate change to emerging diseases to the next economic crash.

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