Book Bits | 3.15.14

The Tragedy of the European Union: Disintegration or Revival?
By George Soros
Summary via publisher, PublicAffairs
The European Union could soon be a thing of the past. Xenophobia is rampant and commonly reflected in elections across the continent. Great Britain may hold a referendum on whether to abandon the union altogether. Spurred by anti-EU sentiments due to the euro crisis, national interests conflict with a shared vision for the future of Europe. Is it too late to preserve the union that generated unprecedented peace for more than half a century?… In a series of revealing interviews conducted by Dr. Gregor Peter Schmitz, George Soros—a man of vast European experience whose personal past informs his present concerns—offers trenchant commentary and concise, prescriptive advice: The euro crisis was not an inevitable consequence of integration, but a result of avoidable mistakes in politics, economics, and finance; and excessive faith in the self-regulating financial markets that Soros calls market fundamentalism inspired flawed institutional structures that call out for reform.

The Seven Sins of Wall Street: Big Banks, their Washington Lackeys, and the Next Financial Crisis
By Bob Ivry
Review via Kirkus Review
A reporter for Bloomberg News, no enemy of capitalism, reads a fiduciary riot act to the bankers and hedge fund managers of the world.
A bank that’s too big to fail, by Ivry’s account, is far too big. Yet they were responsible for the near collapse of the world financial market in 2007–2008, through a combination of “stupidity, poor oversight, and more than anything, a neighbor-versus-neighbor waging of financial warfare.” In the aftermath, banks have been posting record profits. It may be that theology and economics don’t mix, but the overall sin of a system so rigged is its simple unfairness. More specifically, Ivry calques the seven sins of theology onto Wall Street, finding it guilty of such things as secrecy, pride, regulatory capture—that is, when regulators identify more with the institutions they’re supposed to regulate than with the society that employs them—and “a predatory greed weaponized for the war fought by the rich against the poor and middle class.”

Corporate Fraud: The Human Factor
By Maryam Hussain
Review via The Irish Times
This is a highly practical text on fraud rather than an academic treatment of the subject. The authors have drawn on decades of practical experience of fraud investigators from around the world to present a distilled perspective on fraud prevention, detection and investigation. The stated purpose of the book is to enable you to look at your organisation through a lens that magnifies the signs that you may have otherwise missed, leaving you better equipped to deal with the discovery of fraud and to better protect your organisation from fraud in the future.

American Tax Resisters
By Romain D. Huret
Summary via publisher, Harvard University Press
“The American taxpayer”—angered by government waste and satisfied only with spending cuts—has preoccupied elected officials and political commentators since the Reagan Revolution. But resistance to progressive taxation has older, deeper roots. American Tax Resisters presents the full history of the American anti-tax movement that has defended the pursuit of limited taxes on wealth and battled efforts to secure social justice through income redistribution for the past 150 years.

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival
By David Pilling
Summary via publisher, Penguin Books
Despite years of stagnation, Japan remains one of the world’s largest economies and a country that exerts a remarkable cultural fascination. David Pilling’s new book is an entertaining, deeply knowledgeable and surprising analysis of a group of islands that have shown great resilience, both in the face of financial distress and when confronted with the overwhelming disaster of the 2011 earthquake. The resulting tsunami – which killed some 19,000 people – and nuclear catastrophe highlighted both the practical resilience of ordinary Japanese and a political culture of extraordinary carelessness and arrogance. Pilling describes the emergency and its aftermath, but then writes far more broadly about many aspects of Japan which are little known to outsiders and that do so much to explain these contradictory responses to the earthquake. To step behind the relative formality and restraint of the public Japan is to discover a far more anarchistic, peculiar and irrational place, about which this book is the perfect guide.