Book Bits | 3.31.2012

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
By Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
Review via The New York Times
His thesis rests on a four-legged stool. The first idea is that our technologies in computing, energy, medicine and a host of other areas are improving at such an exponential rate that they will soon enable breakthroughs we now barely think possible. Second, these technologies have empowered do-it-yourself innovators to achieve startling advances — in vehicle engineering, medical care and even synthetic biology — with scant resources and little manpower, so we can stop depending on big corporations or national laboratories. Third, technology has created a generation of techno-philanthropists (think Bill Gates) who are pouring their billions into solving seemingly intractable problems like hunger and disease. And finally, we have what Diamandis calls “the rising billion.” These are the world’s poor, who are now (thanks again to technology) able to lessen their burdens in profound ways. “For the first time ever,” Diamandis says, “the rising billion will have the remarkable power to identify, solve and implement their own abundance solutions.”

Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis
By James K. Galbraith
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
As Wall Street rose to dominate the U.S. economy, income and pay inequalities in America came to dance to the tune of the credit cycle. As the reach of financial markets extended across the globe, interest rates, debt, and debt crises became the dominant forces driving the rise of economic inequality almost everywhere. Thus the “super-bubble” that investor George Soros identified in rich countries for the two decades after 1980 was a super-crisis for the 99 percent-not just in the U.S. but the entire world. Inequality and Instability demonstrates that finance is the driveshaft that links inequality to economic instability. The book challenges those, mainly on the right, who see mysterious forces of technology behind rising inequality. And it also challenges those, mainly on the left, who have placed the blame narrowly on trade and outsourcing. Inequality and Instability presents straightforward evidence that the rise of inequality mirrors the stock market in the U.S. and the rise of finance and of free-market policies elsewhere. Starting from the premise that fresh argument requires fresh evidence, James K. Galbraith brings new data to bear as never before, presenting information built up over fifteen years in easily understood charts and tables.
Backstage Wall Street: An Insider’s Guide to Knowing Who to Trust, Who to Run From, and How to Maximize Your Investments
By Josh Brown
Interview with author via Yahoo’s Breakout
Josh Brown, author of “Backstage Wall Street: And Insider’s Guide to Knowing Who to Trust, Who to Run From, and How to Maximize Your Investments” wants to make one thing clear up front: This book is not just another “tell all” chronicle of financial evil-doers. “This is not ‘everyone is terrible on Wall Street,'” Brown says in the attached clip. Instead he’s offering a how-to guide for avoiding what he colorfully refers to as “Murder Holes.” Taken from the WWII movie Saving Private Ryan, a murder hole is more or less just what a sounds like, in financial terms. In short, it’s an investment in which unwitting investors are piled into with no chance of financial escape. Why would a firm do such a thing to investors? If you have to ask you’re probably new to this game. “The worst investments have the highest compensation scheme for the people who sell sell them,” says Brown, ticking off Chinese RTO’s, heavy-load mutual funds, and the ETNs made famous by the ongoing TVIX debacle. If it’s too complicated to easily understand, it’s probably something to avoid.
Winning with ETF Strategies: Top Asset Managers Share Their Methods for Beating the Market
By Max Isaacman
Summary via publisher, FT Press
Today, using the right ETF strategies, you can pursue virtually any investing objective, and achieve your goals in any market: sideways, bear, or bull. In Winning with ETF Strategies, 23 of the field’s most respected and innovative money managers reveal their current strategies and methods, and show you how to select and apply the right approaches for your needs. The ETF money managers presented here have been featured in leading media including CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, and Research Magazine’s ETF Advisor Hall of Fame.
The Devil’s Deal: An Insider’s Tale of How Money is Made
By Andreas Loizou
Review via Financial World
In his first foray into the world of publishing, Andreas Loizou has written a primer about financial markets structured as a thriller. While knowingly winking and nudging at those in the banking industry, The Devil’s Deal deftly informs, educates and entertains the reader. It is the story of how a financial trainer’s apparently chance meeting with a former student sees him caught up in an intricate web of lies, deceit and, ultimately, international fraud. There is truth in the story; indeed, Loizou states in his preface that he “had to change the names of certain characters and firms to avoid even more letters from lawyers. The people involved are unlikely to complain about being made anonymous”.
The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public
By Lynn A. Stout
Essay by author via Harvard Business Review Blog Network
A recent report by the Aspen Institute [PDF] suggests a big part of the problem with corporations’ focus on the short term is shareholders themselves. Today’s shareholders are relentless in demanding that executives “maximize shareholder value.” Shareholder value, in turn, is typically measure by share price — meaning share price today, not share price next week or next decade. This narrow focus on raising stock price by any means possible keeps companies from making long-term investments, protecting the interests of essential stakeholders like employees or customers, or taking much account of social welfare and ethical considerations in making business decisions.
The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends that will Disrupt the World
Excerpt via publisher, Wiley
One inevitable trend in the coming decades—now that rising costs and the end of easy money are forcing Chinese companies to become long-term strategic thinkers and look for new revenue models—is that more Chinese companies will go abroad. Western consumers had better get used to seeing Chinese brands, not just the “Made in China” stickers, on the shelves of America’s retailers. Likewise, Western brands will have to start fending off competition from new emerging Chinese brands that will disrupt the world’s markets and the global pecking order, much as Japanese firms did in the 1980s.