Book Bits: 26 November 2022

Trade Wars: Past and Present
Nils Ole Oermann and Hans-Jürgen Wolff
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
This book explores the causes and instruments of 500 years of armed and non-armed international trade conflicts. Nils Ole Oermann and Hans-Jürgen Wolff draw on decades of experience to examine trade wars, economic sanctions, and different types of economic warfare, investigating their history, ethics, economic driving forces, and legality under current rules. They provide a clear and accessible account of the economics of trade, of trade and financial policy since the nineteenth century, and of the effectiveness of sanctions and the ‘winnability’ of trade wars.

Politicians and Economic Experts
Anna Killick
Summary via publisher (Agenda Publishing)
In recent years politics has seen an increasing role in economic policymaking for a technocracy of experts. How do politicians feel about this and how do they balance their political and ethical aims with economic expertise? Anna Killick offers an in-depth study of how politicians engage with economists and economic opinion. Based on interviews with politicians from the main parties in France, Germany, Denmark, the UK and USA, the book highlights the role economic opinion plays in politics and the tension that can arise between democracy and technocracy. Deferring to the experts is shown to be neither viable nor desirable, and that we should trust politicians to take the lead role in solving economic problems.

The Myth of the Silver Spoon: Navigating Family Wealth and Creating an Impactful Life
Kristin Keffeler
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
The next generation within wealthy families are often said to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Perceived as free from life’s toughest challenges. “Having it all.” But being raised in affluence brings a unique set of pressures and hidden tripwires. Great wealth casts a long shadow. Inheritors commonly face intense familial expectations, public scrutiny and judgment, and confusing or debilitating self-narratives, under which many flounder. And we—as family, friends, and society—slowly lose their contribution to our lives and the common good.

Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition
Lulu Chen
Review via Harvard Business Review
Any discussion of tech in China would be incomplete without considering Tencent, the company behind WeChat (the superapp that serves as a home base for social media, payments, gaming, and other functions for more than one billion monthly active users). The speed and scope of Tencent’s growth since its founding, in 1998, can be difficult to comprehend—but the journalist Lulu Chen’s Influence Empire: The Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition takes us behind the curtain to share the story of CEO Pony Ma, who rose from humble beginnings to head a global behemoth. Chen describes a shy, geeky programmer, nervous about talking in front of crowds but driven to spend innumerable sleepless nights striving to overcome every hurdle on the path to success. Some of those obstacles, such as aggressive government censorship and unexpected regulatory shifts, are no doubt specific to the Chinese context. But Chen’s compelling and relatable narrative depicts Ma as “temperate, stoic and almost irritatingly self-aware…a quiet but doggedly persistent force who rallies people, many of whom he considers smarter by his own account, to undertake his vision.” Her portrait serves as a powerful reminder that the West has no monopoly on inspirational entrepreneurs.

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