Book Bits | 27 January 2018

When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence
By Ilene Grabel
Author quote via Bloomberg
If countries coordinate their economic policies too closely, their business cycles could become overly synchronized, leading to booms—and busts—that are global in scale. And if there’s just one unified world financial architecture, mistakes could propagate through it more quickly and destructively than if there are multiple, competing systems.
The analogy is to a forest that has only one species of tree: A single insect or fungus could spread rapidly and wipe out the whole thing. Diversity in governance can make the financial system safer, argues Ilene Grabel, a professor at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and author of a new book, When Things Don’t Fall Apart: Global Financial Governance and Developmental Finance in an Age of Productive Incoherence.

Rescuing Retirement: A Plan to Guarantee Retirement Security for All Americans
By Teresa Ghilarducci, et al.
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Everyone deserves to be able to retire with dignity, but this core feature of the social contract is in jeopardy. Companies have swerved away from pensions, and most of the workforce has woefully inadequate retirement savings. If we don’t act to fix this broken system, rates of impoverishment for senior citizens threaten to skyrocket, and tens of millions of Americans reaching retirement age in the coming decades will be forced to delay retirement and will experience a dramatic drop in their standard of living.

Self-Regulation and Human Progress: How Society Gains When We Govern Less
By Evan Osborne
Summmary via publisher (Stanford University Press)
Most of us are familiar with free-market competition: the idea that society and the economy benefit when people are left to self-regulate, testing new ideas in pursuit of profit. Less known is the fact that this theory arose after arguments for the scientific method and freedom of speech had gone mainstream—and that all three share a common basis.

The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History
By William C. Rempel
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Veteran Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Rempel (At the Devil’s Table: The Man Who Took Down the World’s Biggest Crime Syndicate, 2011, etc.), a consultant for the TV show Narcos, returns with a richly detailed account of the life of Kirk Kerkorian (1917-2015). The author begins in 1972 in Las Vegas, ventures back to 1944, when Kerkorian was a daring and fortunate pilot, moves back to his subject’s birth and boyhood, and continues chronologically thereafter. Kerkorian was a fearless gambler—in casinos (at the tables, he once bet $1 million on a single roll of the dice), at the bargaining table in business deals, and in his love life. Throughout, Rempel emphasizes Kerkorian’s my-word-and-handshake-are-golden business ethos, his astonishing generosity, and his fierce desire to avoid the limelight.

Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason
By Martijn Konings
Summary via publisher (Stanford University Press)
Critics of capitalist finance tend to focus on its speculative character. Our financial markets, they lament, encourage irresponsible bets on the future that reflect no real underlying value. Why is it, then, that opportunities for speculative investment continue to proliferate in the wake of major economic crises? To make sense of this, Capital and Time advances an understanding of economy as a process whereby patterns of order emerge out of the interaction of speculative investments.