Book Bits: 26 August 2023

The Rise and Fall of the EAST: How Exams, Autocracy, Stability, and Technology Brought China Success, and Why They Might Lead to Its Decline
Yasheng Huang
Review via The Wall Street Journal
In the past few years, Yasheng Huang has found himself becoming disenchanted as a scholar, tired of the shackles placed on him by academic journals. Their excessive specialization has led, he complains, to a “suboptimal supply of big ideas.” So he set out to liberate himself from refereed publications and write a sweeping and “self-consciously ambitious” book about his native China. The riveting result is “The Rise and Fall of the EAST,” whose last word isn’t a reference to the Orient but is, instead, an acronym—for Exams, Autocracy, Stability and Technology—the interplay of which has shaped China for nearly 1,500 years.

Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World
Yepoka Yeebo
Review view The Economist
For two decades, from the 1970s to the 1990s, he peddled lies and rode his luck, spinning a remarkable story that helped him bilk hundreds (and perhaps thousands) of investors on several continents. Blay-Miezah is a contender for the world’s greatest con artist. He is certainly Africa’s.
His story unfolds after the ousting of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first post-independence leader, by a military coup in 1966. Rumours swirled that Nkrumah had stashed the nation’s gold overseas. No one was quite sure how much the gold was worth: perhaps hundreds of millions, billions or even tens of billions of dollars. The stories were probably nonsense, but many Ghanaians believed them.

Rich Get Richer, The: American Wage, Wealth and Income Inequality
Thomas Hyclak
Summary via publisher (World Scientific)
Inequality of wages among workers and inequality of income and wealth among families and households has been rising steadily for the past half-century in the United States and other developed economies. However, the United States stands out for having the most unequal wage and income distributions to begin with and for experiencing the fastest rise in inequality over the following decades. While this has been a long-developing situation and the subject of academic interest for some time, it is only in the last decade or so that inequality has attracted considerable public attention and become a political issue. Inequality has also become a subject of renewed interest among economists, with a growing number of scholars engaged in the development of new databases and the analysis of the causes and effects of increased inequality. This book provides an overview of the economic analysis of wage, income and wealth inequality in the United States, with a focus on this recent research.

The Climate Threat. Crisis for Democracy?
Jon Naustdalslid
Summary via publisher (Springer)
A key point in the book is the need to focus more seriously at the energy problem as the real problem behind global warming. The failure of global climate policies to reduce CO2 emissions and halt climate change has led an increasing number of scientist and activists to lose confidence in democracy’s ability to handle climate change and led them to look to more authoritarian measures to meet the problem. The book documents these trends, also from a historical perspective, criticize them and sketches more democratic alternatives.

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