Book Bits | 28 March 2020

Capital Wars: The Rise of Global Liquidity
By Michael J. Howell
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
Economic cycles are driven by financial flows, namely quantities of savings and credits, and not by high street inflation or interest rates. Their sweeping destructive powers are expressed through Global Liquidity, a $130 trillion pool of footloose cash. Global Liquidity describes the gross flows of credit and international capital feeding through the world’s banking systems and wholesale money markets. The huge jump in the volume of international financial markets since the mid-1980s has been boosted by deregulation, innovation and easy money, with financial globalisation now surpassing the peaks of integration reached before the First World War. Global Liquidity drives these markets: it is often determinant, frequently disruptive and always fast-moving. Barely one fifth of Wall Street’s huge gains over recent decades have come from earnings: rising liquidity and investors’ appetite for riskier financial assets have propelled stock prices higher.

A History of Big Recessions in the Long Twentieth Century
By Andrés Solimano
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
This book examines the array of financial crises, slumps, depressions and recessions that happened around the globe during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It covers events including World War I, hyperinflation and market crashes in the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s, stagflation of the 1970s, the Latin American debt crises of the 1980s, the post-socialist transitions in Central Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990s, and the great financial crisis of 2008-9. In addition to providing wide geographic and historical coverage of episodes of crisis in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, the book clarifies basic concepts in the area of recession economics, analysis of high inflation, debt crises, political cycles and international political economy.

More: A History of the World Economy from the Iron Age to the Information Age
By Philip Coggan
Review via The Economist
Economic histories rarely make for a cheering read. Different eras tend to be punctuated by crises, from the South Sea bubble to tulipmania to the oil shocks of the 1970s to the global financial crisis of 2007-09. Even the more obviously good news events involve a certain ambivalence. The dark satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution provided fuel for both Charles Dickens in “Hard Times” and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in “The Communist Manifesto”.
It is a real pleasure, then, to read a history that naturally includes the crises but sets them in the context of the immense economic advances over the past ten millennia. “More” opens with the ancient economy and the code of Hammurabi, which set out the rules for fair commercial dealings, legal liability, property rights (including for some women) and a minimum wage. It closes with pitches by young wannabe entrepreneurs at an event in London, many of them concerned with tackling social problems such as reducing carbon emissions or diagnosing and monitoring medical conditions.

Dark Data: Why What You Don’t Know Matters
By David J. Hand
Summary via publisher (Princeton U. Press)
In the era of big data, it is easy to imagine that we have all the information we need to make good decisions. But in fact the data we have are never complete, and may be only the tip of the iceberg. Just as much of the universe is composed of dark matter, invisible to us but nonetheless present, the universe of information is full of dark data that we overlook at our peril. In Dark Data, data expert David Hand takes us on a fascinating and enlightening journey into the world of the data we don’t see.

Hacking Planet Earth: How Geoengineering Can Help Us Reimagine the Future
By Thomas Kostigen
Interview with author via Jefferson Public Radio
Mention the term “geoengineering” and you could start an argument. Because the idea of changing how the planet and its weather works often wanders into the contrail/”chemtrail” debate. Thomas Kostigen, the author of many works about Earth and its maintenance, takes up the issue of correcting what we’ve done to the world, in his new book Hacking Planet Earth: How Geoengineering Can Help Us Reimagine the Future.

The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It
By Robert Reich
Essay by author via The Guardian
As the coronavirus outbreak in the US follows the same grim exponential growth path first displayed in Wuhan, China, before herculean measures were put in place to slow its spread there, America is waking up to the fact that it has almost no public capacity to deal with it.
Instead of a public health system, we have a private for-profit system for individuals lucky enough to afford it and a rickety social insurance system for people fortunate enough to have a full-time job.

Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail To Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving
By Kris Putnam-Walkerly
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Whether you regularly donate to charity, run a small family foundation, or are responsible for millions of dollars in grants, you are a philanthropist. Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail To Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving looks at how you can create transformational change. It reminds us that how we give is as important as the amount we give. The author describes common practices that hinder transformational change and explains how to avoid them, ensuring that your gifts help create the impact you seek.

Dragonomics: How Latin America Is Maximizing (or Missing Out on) China’s International Development Strategy
By Carol Wise
Summary via publisher (Yale U. Press)
This book explores the impact of Chinese growth on Latin America since the early 2000s. Roughly twenty years ago, Chinese entrepreneurs headed to the Western Hemisphere in search of profits and commodities, specifically those that China lacked and that some Latin American countries held in abundance—copper, iron ore, crude oil, soybeans, and fish meal. Focusing largely on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru, Carol Wise traces the evolution of political and economic ties between China and these countries and analyzes how success has varied by sector, project, and country.

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