Book Bits | 31 March 2018

Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers When Economics and Politics Collide
By Alan Blinder
Interview with author via
When it comes to fiscal policy, it might seem like politicians and economists would work in lockstep. But in many cases, the politics come first — and that tends to lead to policies with not-so-sound data backing it up. And according to Princeton economics professor Alan Blinder, the fault might lie with economists as much as it does with politicians. In his new book, “Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers When Politics and Economics Collide,” Blinder sets out to explore the troubled relationship between politicians and economists — and offer some solutions. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Blinder about his book.

The End of Indexing: Six structural mega-trends that threaten passive investing
By Niels Jensen
Summary via publisher (Harriman House)
Index-tracking is the flavour of the day – it accounts for around one-third of the total US mutual fund market, and is still growing rapidly. Indexing appears to be unstoppable. But, in The End of Indexing, investment veteran Niels Jensen presents a different vision. In a forthright and compelling examination of the investment landscape, Jensen argues that the economic environment we are entering will be unsuited to index-tracking strategies. Jensen identifies six structural mega-trends that are set to disrupt investors around the globe:
1. End of the debt super-cycle
2. Retirement of the baby boomers
3. Declining spending power of the middle classes
4. Rise of the East
5. Death of fossil fuels
6. Mean reversion of wealth-to-GDP

Financial Shenanigans, Fourth Edition: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks and Fraud in Financial Reports
By Howard M. Schilit, et al.
Reference via Indianapolis Business Journal
The fourth edition of Howard Schilit’s book “Financial Shenanigans: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks and Fraud in Financial Reports” provides an array of maneuvers companies might use to overstate performance. Schilit demonstrates how companies might shift expenses to a later period; record revenue too soon; or inflate revenue, earnings and cash flow.

Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future
By Hemant Taneja
Summary via publisher (PublicAffairs)
Unscaled identifies the forces that are reshaping the global economy and turning one of the fundamental laws of business and society–the economies of scale–on its head. An innovative trend combining technology with economics is unraveling behemoth industries–including corporations, banks, farms, media conglomerates, energy systems, governments, and schools-that have long dominated business and society. Size and scale have become a liability. A new generation of upstarts is using artificial intelligence to automate tasks that once required expensive investment, and “renting” technology platforms to build businesses for hyper-focused markets, enabling them to grow big without the bloat of giant organizations.

Invested: How Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger Taught Me to Master My Mind, My Emotions, and My Money (with a Little Help from My Dad)
By Danielle Town with Phil Town
Summary via publisher (William Morrow)
In this essential handbook—a blend of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Happiness Project—the co-host of the wildly popular InvestED podcast shares her yearlong journey learning to invest, as taught to her by her father, investor and bestselling author Phil Town. Growing up, the words finance, savings, and portfolio made Danielle Town’s eyes glaze over, and the thought of stocks and financial statements shut down her brain. The daughter of a successful investor and bestselling financial author of Rule #1, Phil Town, she spent most of her adult life avoiding investing—until she realized that her time-consuming career as lawyer was making her feel anything but in control of her life or her money.

The Deals That Made the World: Reckless Ambition, Backroom Negotiations, and the Hidden Truths of Business
By Susannah Cahalan
Review via The Daily Times
If you think politicians are shady, a new book has some news for you – businessmen are worse.
“The Deals That Made the World: Reckless Ambition, Backroom Negotiations, and the Hidden Truths of Business” (William Morrow) by Jacques Peretti exposes the many ways that businesses have conspired to control our world.
“They have changed how we spend and think about money; the way we work; how we conceptualize wealth and risk, tax and inequality. These deals invented and then taught us to embrace the concept of the consumer upgrade. These deals have even altered the shape of our bodies,” writes Peretti.

Work: The Last 1,000 Years
By Andrea Komlosy
Summary via publisher (Verso)
Say the word “work,” and most people think of some form of gainful employment. Yet this limited definition has never corresponded to the historical experience of most people—whether in colonies, developing countries, or the industrialized world. That gap between common assumptions and reality grows even more pronounced in the case of women and other groups excluded from the labour market. In this important intervention, Andrea Komlosy demonstrates that popular understandings of work have varied radically in different ages and countries. Looking at labour history around the globe from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Komlosy sheds light on both discursive concepts as well as the concrete coexistence of multiple forms of labour—paid and unpaid, free and unfree.