Book Bits | 4 January 2015

Balanced Asset Allocation: How to Profit in Any Economic Climate
By Alex Shahidi
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
The conventional portfolio is prone to frequent and potentially devastating losses because it is NOT balanced to different economic outcomes. In contrast, a truly balanced portfolio can help investors reduce risk and more reliably achieve their objectives. This simple fact would surprise most investors, from beginners to professionals. Investment consultant Alex Shahidi puts his 15 years of experience advising the most sophisticated investors in the world and managing multi-billion dollar portfolios to work in this important resource for investors.

Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, The Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History
By Barry Eichengreen
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
The Great Depression and the Great Recession are the two great economic crises of the past hundred years. While there are accounts of both episodes, no one has yet attempted a sustained comparative analysis. In Hall of Mirrors, Barry Eichengreen draws on his unparalleled expertise for a brilliantly conceived dual-track account of the two crises and their consequences. Rather than telling the stories of the two crises in sequence, instead he weaves them together. He describes the two bubble-fueled buildups, then the onset of crisis, the subsequent financial and economic and collapse, the policy response, and finally the recovery. A theme of Eichengreen’s narrative is that while the policy response to the Great Recession was importantly shaped by perceptions of the Great Depression – contemporary policymakers did in fact learn lessons from the Depression that enabled them, this time, to prevent the worst – they could have done better. Their failure to do so reflected a tendency to take the lessons of the Depression too literally, leading to an inability to recognize important respects in which circumstances, and specifically the structure of financial markets, had changed – precisely in response to the policies put in place due to the Depression.

Understanding Global Crises: An Emerging Paradigm
By Assaf Razin
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
Financial crises have some common storylines, among them bursting asset bubbles, bank failures, sharp tightening of credit, and downturn in trade. They are also different from one another. Some start with sudden reversal of international capital flows, others with domestic credit implosions. A challenge to economic research is to integrate common as well as disparate threads into a coherent analytical framework that is at the same time empirically testable. In Understanding Global Crises, Assaf Razin offers a review of an emerging paradigm that is consistent with the key features of recent global financial crises. This paradigm presents in a transparent way basic analytical elements of the theories of financial and monetary crises and how these elements fit together in macroeconomic analysis of global crises.

Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect
By Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke
Review via MIT News
“People are constantly looking at the world around them and trying to learn from it, and that’s natural,” MIT economist Joshua Angrist says. “But it turns out to be very difficult to sort out cause and effect, because the world is complicated, with many things happening at once.”
Angrist, the Ford Professor of Economics [at MIT], has long been one of the leading advocates of research that uses “ceteris paribus” [“other things being equal”] principles. Now, along with Jorn-Steffen Pischke of the London School of Economics, Angrist has written a book on the subject for a general audience, “Mastering ‘Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect,” published in December by Princeton University Press.