Book Bits | 3.8.14

Money: The Unauthorized Biography
By Felix Martin
Review via The Guardian
In The Importance of Being Earnest, the prim governess Miss Prism tells her young charge Cecily to omit the chapter on the fall of the rupee in the political economy textbook she has been instructed to study: “It is somewhat too sensational. Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.” And in Felix Martin’s stimulating and timely book we see how right Miss Prism was: money – metallic or paper – may seem deadly dull, but it actually stands centre-stage in today’s most important political and economic conflicts. Moreover, it is economists’ blinkered insistence that money is just a “technical” and relatively minor issue that explains why they, and their politician followers, brought the world to the brink of catastrophe in 2008 – and why they are conspicuously failing to rescue us from that crisis.

The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor
By William Easterly
Review via Kirkus Review
Easterly (Economics/New York Univ.; The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, 2006, etc.) delivers a scathing assault on the anti-poverty programs associated with both the United Nations and its political and private sector supporters. No stranger to controversy, the author takes off the gloves again in a no-holds-barred account of the history and hypocrisy of the ideas associated with development economics. He charges that to the extent anti-poverty programs intended for the developing sector rely on outside economic and technical expertise and top-down government action, they become authoritarian, anti-democratic and unlikely to succeed.

The Battle for Europe: How an Elite Hijacked a Continent and How we Can Take it Back
By Thomas Fazi
Summary via publisher, Pluto Press/Macmillan
The Battle for Europe brings into sharp focus the historical importance of the current political, economic and social turmoil in Europe. Thomas Fazi explains what has happened in Europe following the financial crash of 2008 as a classic case of economic shock doctrine – and the first instance in history where such ‘therapy’ has been applied to an entire continent. Fazi argues that the EU’s insistence on pursuing austerity – despite its failure as policy and the creation of human suffering – shouldn’t be viewed simply as a case of short-sightedness, but as an attempt by the wealthy elite to do away with the last remnants of the welfare state and complete the neoliberal project.

How Capitalism Failed the Arab World: The Economic Roots and Precarious Future of the Middle East Uprisings
By Richard Javad Heydarian
Summary via publisher, Zed Books
Economic liberalization has failed in the Arab world. Instead of ushering in economic dynamism and precipitating democratic reform, it has over the last three decades resulted in greater poverty, rising income inequality and sky-rocketing rates of youth unemployment. In How Capitalism Failed the Arab World, Richard Javad Heydarian shows how years of economic mismanagement, political autocracy and corruption have encouraged people to revolt, and how the initial optimism of the uprisings is now giving way to bitter power struggles, increasing uncertainty and continued economic stagnation.

Covering Your ASSets: A Complete Guide to Wealth Preservation and Asset Protection
By Leonard Critcher
Summary via publisher, AuthorHouse
Covering Your ASSets is not a guide on how to accumulate assets. It is written specifically for people who have already accumulated assets, or are on their way to doing so, and wish to preserve and protect those assets. It is written in a unique format that will allow you to isolate your specific life situation and read only material applicable to you. You will learn about what the Wealth Planning process should actually entail, the Thirteen Wealth Management Issues (twelve of which that are ignored by many Financial Planners), the synergy that should come from the integration of these oft-ignored issues, and how to properly build a Wealth Planning Team.

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance
By Julia Angwin
Interview with author via NPR
Investigative reporter Julia Angwin was curious what Google knew about her, so she asked the company for her search data. “It turns out I had been doing about 26,000 Google searches a month … and I was amazed at how revealing they were,” she tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. From NSA sweeps to commercial services scraping our Web browsing habits, to all kinds of people tracking us through our smartphones, Angwin says we’ve become a society where indiscriminate data-gathering has become the norm. Angwin has covered online privacy issues for years, and in her new book she describes what she did to try to escape the clutches of data scrapers, even to the point of creating a fake identity.