Book Bits | 29 June 2019

Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency
By Finn Brunton
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
The fascinating untold story of digital cash and its creators—from experiments in the 1970s to the mania over Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin may appear to be a revolutionary form of digital cash without precedent or prehistory. In fact, it is only the best-known recent experiment in a long line of similar efforts going back to the 1970s. But the story behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and its blockchain technology has largely been untold—until now. In Digital Cash, Finn Brunton reveals how technological utopians and political radicals created experimental money to bring about their visions of the future: protecting privacy or bringing down governments, preparing for apocalypse or launching a civilization of innovation and abundance that would make its creators immortal.

Superpower: One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy
By Russell Gold
Review via Texas Standard
The new book, “Superpower: One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy,” traces a Houston wind developer’s role in the Texas renewable energy boom.
Austin-based Wall Street Journal reporter Russell Gold says Harvard graduate Michael Peter Skelly was looking for interesting work after building trams in Costa Rica.
“He decided he wanted to get into this new industry that was emerging, called renewable energy and started building wind farms,” Gold says.
Gold says Skelly is no hippie, and like his oil-barren counterparts, he walks the walk of a high-powered businessperson. But instead of drilling for oil and gas, Skelly looked for ways to distribute cleaner, cheaper energy. Skelly partnered with members of the Zilkha family – who had their own success in the music and oil industries – streamlining an industry that had come of age after being dominated by awkward, clunky, bird-killing turbines.

The Debt System: A History of Sovereign Debts and their Repudiation
By Éric Toussaint
Summary via publisher (Haymarket Books)
This compelling, provocative, and accessible volume offers a rejoinder to the prevailing wisdom that views debt as holy writ. For as long as there have been rich nations and poor nations, debt has been a powerful force for maintaining the unequal relations between them. Treated as sacrosanct, immutable, and eternally binding, it has become the yoke of choice for imperial powers in the post-colonial world to enforce their subservience over the global south. In this ground-breaking history, renowned economist Éric Toussaint argues for a radical reversal of this balance of accounts through the repudiation of sovereign debt.

The Money Revolution: Easy Ways to Manage Your Finances in a Digital World
By Anne Boden
Summary via publisher (KoganPage)
There’s never been a shortage of advice on managing your money, clearing debt, being canny with your cash and getting the best deals. But it can be hard work, and everyone seems to be saying something different. What if you could easily cut through all the rhetoric and noise and everything could be made straightforward? In The Money Revolution, banking entrepreneur, and founder of award winning Starling Bank, Anne Boden shines a spotlight on how we save, spend and invest our money. By adopting a few new behaviours, it’s possible to transform your bank balance for the better.

The Anxious Triumph: A Global History of Capitalism, 1860-1914
By Donald Sassoon
Summary via publisher (Penguin Random House)
Capitalist enterprise has existed in some form since ancient times, but the globalization and dominance of capitalism as a system began in the 1860s when, in different forms and supported by different political forces, states all over the world developed their modern political frameworks: the unifications of Italy and Germany, the establishment of a republic in France, the elimination of slavery in the American south, the Meiji Restoration in Japan, the emancipation of the serfs in Tsarist Russia. This book magnificently explores how, after the upheavals of industrialisation, a truly global capitalism followed. For the first time in the history of humanity, there was a social system able to provide a high level of consumption for the majority of those who lived within its bounds. Today, capitalism dominates the world.

Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West Since the Cold War, 1971–2017
By Simon Reid-Henry
Review via The Times
Simon Reid-Henry’s colossal history of the last half-century opens at midday on May 29, 1968. After weeks of student protests, Paris was in ferment, the streets packed with demonstrators, the atmosphere electric with rumours that President Charles de Gaulle was about to resign.
Holed up at the Elysée Palace, the ageing hero of the Second World War had already had his personal papers moved to safety. That morning, he postponed a ministerial meeting and announced he was retiring temporarily to his country house. Then, unknown to anybody, he flew to the headquarters of the French military in West Germany. With France apparently on the brink of revolution, he knew the support of the army would be crucial.

How to Survive: Lessons for Everyday Life from the Extreme World
By John Hudson
Summary via publisher (Macmillan)
What is the connection between crawling through a jungle and your ‘to do’ list? What can ejecting out of a stealth bomber teach you about the importance of thinking the worst? What can surviving in extreme situations teach us about surviving everyday life? John Hudson, chief survival instructor to the British Military, knows what it takes to survive. Combining first-hand experience with 20 years of studying the choices people have made under the most extreme pressure, How to Survive is a lifetime’s worth of wisdom about how to apply the principles of survival to everyday life. The cornerstone of military survival (surviving anything) is understanding the relationship between effort, hope and goals – a mindset that can be transposed anytime, anywhere. In How to Survive you will learn how this template for survival can be applied to any situation in your everyday life.

An Introduction to the Advanced Theory and Practice of Nonparametric Econometrics: A Replicable Approach Using R
By Jeffrey S. Racine
Summary via publisher (Cambridge University Press)
Interest in nonparametric methodology has grown considerably over the past few decades, stemming in part from vast improvements in computer hardware and the availability of new software that allows practitioners to take full advantage of these numerically intensive methods. This book is written for advanced undergraduate students, intermediate graduate students, and faculty, and provides a complete teaching and learning course at a more accessible level of theoretical rigor than Racine’s earlier book co-authored with Qi Li, Nonparametric Econometrics: Theory and Practice (2007). The open source R platform for statistical computing and graphics is used throughout in conjunction with the R package np. Recent developments in reproducible research is emphasized throughout with appendices devoted to helping the reader get up to speed with R, R Markdown, TeX and Git.