Book Bits: 28 October 2023

Ours Was the Shining Future: The Story of the American Dream
David Leonhardt (Author)
Review via The New York Times
His striking contention, based on a study of census and income tax data by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty, is that where once the great majority of Americans could hope to earn more than their parents, now only half are likely to. Although the precise ratio depends on assumptions about inflation, and is less striking, as Chetty notes, when one takes into account shrinking household size, the general point is unquestionable. Economic progress used to define America. Now, Leonhardt finds “stagnation in nearly every reliable measure of well-being.” He arguably overstates the case — for instance, median household income has generally continued to rise — but the malady he identifies is real.

The Price of Misfortune: Rights and Wrongs in Indebted America
Daniel Platt
Summary via publisher (U. of Chicago Press)
What can be taken from someone who has borrowed money and cannot repay? What do the victims of misfortune owe to their lenders, and what can they keep for themselves? The answers to those questions, immensely important for debtors, creditors, and society at large, have changed over time. The Price of Misfortune examines the cause of debtors’ rights in the modern United States and the struggles of reformers who fought to establish financial freedoms in law.

The Greatest Capitalist Who Ever Lived: Tom Watson Jr. and the Epic Story of How IBM Created the Digital Age
Ralph Watson McElvenny and Marc Wortman
Interview with co-author (Wortman) via
In the book of corporate folklore, former IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. deserves a special spot. Specifically, the massive gamble he took in 1964 to introduce the System/360, which had the potential to undermine his own company’s entire business model. Today on the show, an interview with author Marc Wortman on what Watson Jr.’s decision reveals about the fragile relationship between innovation and destruction.

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