Book Bits | 24 October 2015

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve
By Roger Lowenstein
Essay by author via The Wall Street Journal
Antipathy to the central bank is a uniquely American tradition. No federal agency, except the Internal Revenue Service, is held in lower regard than the Federal Reserve, according to public opinion surveys. The left accuses the Fed of being too cozy with banks; the right says it is planting the seeds of a massive inflation.

Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance
By Adair Turner
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Between Debt and the Devil challenges the belief that we need credit growth to fuel economic growth, and that rising debt is okay as long as inflation remains low. In fact, most credit is not needed for economic growth—but it drives real estate booms and busts and leads to financial crisis and depression. Turner explains why public policy needs to manage the growth and allocation of credit creation, and why debt needs to be taxed as a form of economic pollution. Banks need far more capital, real estate lending must be restricted, and we need to tackle inequality and mitigate the relentless rise of real estate prices. Turner also debunks the big myth about fiat money—the erroneous notion that printing money will lead to harmful inflation. To escape the mess created by past policy errors, we sometimes need to monetize government debt and finance fiscal deficits with central-bank money.

Raw Deal: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers
By Steven Hill
Summary via publisher (St. Martin’s Press)
The US workforce, which has been one of the most productive and wealthiest in the world, is undergoing an alarming transformation. Increasing numbers of workers find themselves on shaky ground, turned into freelancers, temps and contractors. Even many full-time and professional jobs are experiencing this precarious shift. Within a decade, a near-majority of the 145 million employed Americans will be impacted. Add to that the steamroller of automation, robots and artificial intelligence already replacing millions of workers and projected to “obsolesce” millions more, and the jobs picture starts looking grim.

The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World
By Ho-fung Hung
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Many thought China’s rise would fundamentally remake the global order. Yet, much like other developing nations, the Chinese state now finds itself in a status quo characterized by free trade and American domination. Through a cutting-edge historical, sociological, and political analysis, Ho-fung Hung details the competing interests and economic realities that temper the dream of Chinese supremacy–forces that are stymieing growth throughout the global South.

Chicagonomics: The Evolution of Chicago Free Market Economics
By Lanny Ebenstein
Review via The Economist
Since its foundation in 1890, the University of Chicago has built a world-class reputation for economics. Since 1969 it has produced no fewer than 28 winners of the Nobel prize for economics, including Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and George Stigler, far outnumbering any other institution. Its policy prescriptions—favouring freer markets and the strict control of the money supply—are seen as having dominated economic policy across the developed world since gaining favour under Ronald Reagan in America and Margaret Thatcher in Britain.
Since the financial crisis, however, the “Chicago school” of ideas has looked to be in retreat, at least in policy terms.

No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy
By Linsey McGoey
Essay by author via The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Something remarkable about the new, more muscular philanthropy espoused by a new generation of donors is how often they appeal to the writings of scholars such as Friedrich Hayek to justify giving trends that in reality entrench the very ills that Mr. Hayek warned of: the creation of central authorities who lack access to dispersed information that could enable them to plan growth in an effective manner.

Side Effects and Complications: The Economic Consequences of Health-Care Reform
By Casey B. Mulligan
Summary via publisher (University of Chicago Press)
The Affordable Care Act will have a dangerous effect on the American economy. That may sound like a political stance, but it’s a conclusion directly borne out by economic forecasts. In Side Effects and Complications, preeminent labor economist Casey B. Mulligan brings to light the dire economic realities that have been lost in the ideological debate over the ACA, and he offers an eye-opening, accessible look at the price American citizens will pay because of it.