Book Bits | 24 January 2015

American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction
By Adam Seth Levine
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Americans today face no shortage of threats to their financial well-being, such as job and retirement insecurity, health care costs, and spiraling college tuition. While one might expect that these concerns would motivate people to become more politically engaged on the issues, this often doesn’t happen, and the resulting inaction carries consequences for political debates and public policy. Moving beyond previously studied barriers to political organization, American Insecurity sheds light on the public’s inaction over economic insecurities by showing that the rhetoric surrounding these issues is actually self-undermining. By their nature, the very arguments intended to mobilize individuals—asking them to devote money or time to politics—remind citizens of their economic fears and personal constraints, leading to undermobilization and nonparticipation.

Saving Europe: Anatomy of a Dream (New and Expanded Edition)
By Carlo Bastasin
Summary via publisher (Brookings Institution Press)
Is the European crisis over? By no means, according to economist and journalist Carlo Bastasin. In fact, the problems that developed between 2008 and 2011—described in the first edition of Saving Europe—have grown more insidious. The crisis originated when national governments failed to act openly and responsibly, putting in jeopardy not only their own countries but also the well-being of future generations and foreign taxpayers. This failure continued even after the crisis became evident; leaders did not explain clearly to their citizens why the financial crisis had occurred and what was being done about it. From a crisis of politics, it has turned into an outright crisis of European democracy, and a warning for the future of globalization.

The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism
By David M. Kotz
Summary via publisher (Harvard Unviversity Press)
The financial and economic collapse that began in the United States in 2008 and spread to the rest of the world continues to burden the global economy. David Kotz, who was one of the few academic economists to predict it, argues that the ongoing economic crisis is not simply the aftermath of financial panic and an unusually severe recession but instead is a structural crisis of neoliberal, or free-market, capitalism. Consequently, continuing stagnation cannot be resolved by policy measures alone. It requires major institutional restructuring.

The Incredible Shrinking Alpha: And What You Can Do to Escape Its Clutches
By Larry Swedroe
Summary via Amazon
Larry Swedroe, author of the bestselling series of The Only Guide investment books, and co-author Andrew Berkin bring you the quantitatively chilling tale of The Incredible Shrinking Alpha. As aficionados of classic science fiction, Swedroe and Berkin saw similarities between the monumental struggle of Scott Carey, novelist Richard Matheson’s Incredible Shrinking Man, and that of every individual investor trying to beat the market. Swedroe and Berkin explain in academic yet simple terms what is happening to the alpha for which so many investors yearn. Offering compelling data from decades of academic research, Swedroe and Berkin present the hard truth as they know it — it’s not worth the time or effort spent battling to win those few extra cake crumbs. Instead, focus on the things you can control and discover what life has to offer beyond the quest for alpha.

Socrates Comes to Wall Street
By Thomas I. White
Summary via publisher (Pearson)
Two recent events – the 2008 economic meltdown and the ongoing concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a very small percentage of the population – have led many people to question a number of basic assumptions about business, corporations, and the workings of contemporary free-market capitalism in a global economy. Written as a dialogue between Socrates and a hypothetical contemporary CEO, Socrates Comes to Wall Street leads students to think critically about perspectives and practices that are taken as “givens” in most American business schools and corporations.

Bitcoin Decoded: Bitcoin Beginner’s Guide to Mining and the Strategies to Make Money with Cryptocurrencies
Summary via Amazon
Hardly a day passes where Bitcoin isn’t being discussed by the media. You need a high level of understanding and expertise to be able to swim safely in the Bitcoin pool. This book is the equivalent of the swimming lessons you took as a kid. Once finished, you’ll be able to enter into the water safely, and be aware of both the potential dangers and thrills of the deep end.