Book Bits | 3 February 2018

The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Nations
By David Pilling
Review via Kirkus Reviews
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell,” the environmental curmudgeon Edward Abbey was fond of saying. One suspects that Financial Times associate editor Pilling would endorse the view, though he puts things less stridently in this studied look at economic growth and its measures and mismeasures. “Economics,” he writes, “can present a distorted view of the world.” True enough, especially because a sine qua non of modern economics is gross domestic product, a calculation of all the things that happen in an economy. But as the author memorably notes, GDP is morally indifferent: it “likes pollution,” because money is spent to clean up environmental messes, and “likes crime because it is fond of large police forces and repairing broken windows.” War and catastrophe? No problem, from a GDP point of view. Pilling examines some of the ways that renegade economists have proposed to consider the true health of an economy, with all the externalities of economic activity taken into account, from various equations to happiness rankings to the Genuine Progress Index, one of the more interesting “measures of economic welfare.”

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
By Daniel Coyle
Summary via publisher (Bantam)
In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle goes inside some of the world’s most successful organizations—including the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs—and reveals what makes them tick. He demystifies the culture-building process by identifying three key skills that generate cohesion and cooperation, and explains how diverse groups learn to function with a single mind.

The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities of Collaborative Consumption
Edited by Pia A. Albinsson and B. Yasanthi Perera
Summary via publisher (Praeger)
The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities of Collaborative Consumption examines the business phenomenon of the sharing economy, giving readers a thorough analysis of this up-and-coming sector. The book presents a detailed historical perspective of sharing and cooperatives, followed by a discussion of societal factors—predominantly technology—that have facilitated the fast growth of collaborative consumption businesses. Additional chapters offer progressive perspectives on how companies can further commercialize sharing.

The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
By Bryan Caplan
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Despite being immensely popular–and immensely lucrative—education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity—in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time
By Simon Garfield
Review via The Wall Street Journal
How often do you check the clock? If you’re like most people, probably every few minutes. But why? Based on that frequency, you’d think we find the act intensely pleasurable. In reality, the opposite is true. Time always seems to be dragging along excruciatingly slowly—or else rushing by, reminding us that we’re behind schedule (again). Our preoccupation with time induces anxiety, even dread, yet we can’t shake it. What gives?
Simon Garfield dissects this conundrum in his delightful “Timekeepers.” Unlike most books on time, it’s not scientific or philosophical; he has no interest in whether time is really an illusion or whether it existed before the Big Bang. Instead, he focuses on how human beings actually experience time. “This is a book about our obsession with time and our desire to measure it, control it, sell it, film it, perform it, immortalise it and make it meaningful,” he writes.