Book Bits | 25 April 2015

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World
By Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt
Q&A with co-author via The Wall Street Journal
WSJ: Where, in the business context, might “simple rules” help more than a complicated approach?
Donald Sull: Well, a common decision that people face in organizations is capital allocation. In many organizations, there will be thick procedure books or algorithms–one company I worked with had an algorithm that had almost 100 variables for every project. These are very cumbersome approaches to making decisions and can waste time. Basically, any decision about how to focus resources—either people or money or attention—can benefit from simple rules.

The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them
By Joseph Stiglitz
Review via CBS MoneyWatch
America may have once been known for providing opportunities to poor and rich alike, Stiglitz writes, but the country has now been hamstrung by growing inequality, which is creating a “vicious circle” where the rising power of the top 1 percent of American earners leads to greater political inequality, which then reinforces more economic inequality.

The Globalization of Inequality
By François Bourguignon
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
In The Globalization of Inequality, distinguished economist and policymaker François Bourguignon examines the complex and paradoxical links between a vibrant world economy that has raised the living standard of over half a billion people in emerging nations such as China, India, and Brazil, and the exponentially increasing inequality within countries. Exploring globalization’s role in the evolution of inequality, Bourguignon takes an original and truly international approach to the decrease in inequality between nations, the increase in inequality within nations, and the policies that might moderate inequality’s negative effects.

Debt, Democracy and the Welfare State: Are Modern Democracies Living on Borrowed Time and Money?
By Rögnvaldur Hannesson
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Pivot)
Why is it that government debt in the developed world has risen to world war proportions in a time of peace? This can largely be attributed to governments maintaining welfare expenditures beyond what tax revenues allow. But will these governments refrain from doing what is necessary for sustainable economic growth for fear of losing their electorate? Hannesson examines the current public debt crises of both small and large democracies in terms of the inability or unwillingness of democratic leaders to balance taxes and public spending. It explores crucial issues involved in the financing of the welfare state addressing how governments should go about balancing public service spending, alongside private sector contributions.

Japan’s Great Stagnation and Abenomics: Lessons for the World
By Masazumi Wakatabe
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
As the global Great Recession continues, policymakers, economists, and the public are turning to Japenses economic revitalization for answers. Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate in Economics, once said that Japan was a ‘full-dress rehearsal for the current crisis.’ Japan has experienced and valiantly overcome the burst of their Bubble economy, financial crisis, lukewarm recovery, and more than a decade-long deflation and stagnation to become one of the most stable economies today. Japan’s Great Stagnation and Abenomics chronicles Japan’s Great Stagnation and reveals the striking similarities of economic events and policies between the Great Stagnation and the current Great Recession.

Making Money Matter: Impact Investing to Change the World
By G. Benjamin Bingham
Summary via Amazon
The way we think about money has extraordinary impact. This book satisfies the growing longing for a financial overview that can provide practical advice and demonstrate how money is a social tool. Making Money Matter introduces the reader to common money mistakes, and the dysfunctional nature of the current financial framework. Its overview of the SRI world will inspire investors to push their advisors’ envelope while providing new strategies to meet the demand for positive impact. It provides a philosophical basis for transforming our view of money from an end unto itself to a means to change the world for the better.

The 1% and the Rest of Us: A Political Economy of Dominant Ownership
By Tim Di Muzio
Summary via publisher (Zed Books)
While the Occupy movement faces many strategic and organizational challenges, one of its major accomplishments has been to draw global attention to the massive disparity of income, wealth and privilege held by 1% of the population in nations across the world. In The 1% and the Rest of Us, Tim Di Muzio explores what it means to be part of a socio-economic order presided over by the super-rich and their political servants. Incorporating provocative and original arguments about philanthropy, social wealth and the political role of the super-rich, Di Muzio reveals how the 1% are creating a world unto themselves in which the accumulation of ever more money is really a symbolic drive to control society and the natural environment.

Africa’s New Oil: Power, Pipelines and Future Fortunes
By Celeste Hicks
Summary via African Arguments
Celeste Hicks is the former BBC correspondent in Chad and Mali and an editor on BBC Africa service news programmes…. In general, Hicks says that she is impressed by the level of debate generally taking place in these ‘new’ oil producing countries. However, the key question must be: Is any of this talk going to make a difference – will the new oil producers use their new-found wealth judiciously, spend wisely and save for the future? As the Chad example well-exemplifies and as Hicks says “political expediency often trumps ‘economic theory’ of what to do with oil money.”