Book Bits | 4 May 2019

Living Well at Others’ Expense: The Hidden Costs of Western Prosperity
By Stephan Lessenich
Review via The Irish Times
Imagine a fictional society, Dogland, which consists solely of dogs kept as pets in US homes. If the average maintenance cost of these pets is taken as their pay, the residents of Dogland would rank above 40% of the world’s population in terms of income.
In Living Well at Others’ Expense, Stephan Lessenich uses Dogland to illustrate not only the stark inequalities in today’s world, but also the fact that many of us in the rich developed world are complicit in perpetuating this injustice.

Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took On Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime
By Julian Guthrie
Summary via publisher (Currency)
An unforgettable story of four women who, through grit and ingenuity, became stars in the cutthroat, high-stakes, male dominated world of venture capital in Silicon Valley, and helped build some of the foremost companies of our time. In Alpha Girls, award-winning journalist Julian Guthrie takes readers behind the closed doors of venture capital, an industry that transforms economies and shapes how we live. We follow the lives and careers of four women who were largely written out of history – until now. These women, juggling work and family, shaped the tech landscape we know today while overcoming unequal pay, actual punches, betrayals, and the sexist attitudes prevalent in Silicon Valley and in male-dominated industries everywhere. Despite the setbacks, they would rise again to rewrite the rules for an industry they love.

Free Trade and Prosperity: How Openness Helps the Developing Countries Grow Richer and Combat Poverty
By Arvind Panagariya
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Arguments for protection and against free trade have seen a revival in developed countries such as the United States and Great Britain as well as developing countries such as India. Given the clear benefits trade openness has brought everywhere, this is a surprising development. The benefits of free trade are especially great for emerging market economies. Free Trade and Prosperity offers the first full-scale defense of pro-free-trade policies with developing countries at its center. Arvind Panagariya, a professor at Columbia University and former top economic advisor to the government of India, supplies a historically informed analysis of many longstanding but flawed arguments for protection. He starts with an insightful overview of the positive case for free trade, and then closely examines the various contentions of protectionists.

The Business of Changing the World: How Billionaires, Tech Disrupters, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Aid Industry
By Raj Kumar
Summary via publisher (Beacon Press)
Drawing on 2 decades covering global development as editor in chief of Devex, Raj Kumar explores how nontraditional models of philanthropy and aid are empowering the world’s poorest people to make progress. Old aid was driven by good intentions and relied on big-budget projects from a few government aid agencies, like the World Bank and USAID. Today, corporations, Silicon Valley start-ups, and billionaire philanthropists are a disrupting force pushing global aid to be data driven and results oriented.

The Digital Ape: how to live (in peace) with smart machines
By Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
The smart-machines revolution is reshaping our lives and our societies. Here, Sir Nigel Shadbolt, one of the world’s leading authorities on artificial intelligence, and Roger Hampson dispel terror, confusion, and misconception. We are not about to be elbowed aside by a rebel army of super-intelligent robots of our own creation. We were using tools before we became Homo sapiens, and will continue to build and master them, no matter how complicated they become. How we exercise that control–in our private lives, in employment, in politics–and make the best of the wonderful opportunities, will determine our collective future well-being.

Sold My Soul for a Student Loan: Higher Education and the Political Economy of the Future
By Daniel T. Kirsch
Summary via publisher (Praeger)
American higher education boasts one of the most impressive legacies in the world, but the price of admission for many is now endless debt. As this book shows, increasing educational indebtedness undermines the real value of higher education in our democracy. To help readers understand this dilemma, the book examines how student debt became commonplace and what the long-term effects of such an ongoing reality might be. Sold My Soul for a Student Loan examines this vitally important issue from an unprecedented diversity of perspectives, focusing on the fact that student debt is hindering the ability of millions of people to enter the job market, the housing market, the consumer economy, and the political process.

The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality
By Bhaskar Sunkara
Adapted excerpt via The Guardian
Socialism has survived a lot over the past century. It’s survived persecution from tyrants and the tyrants that it itself gave birth to. It survived the radical reshaping of capitalism and that of its great protagonist, the working class.
But does socialism really have a future? I have the utmost moral confidence that a world in which some thrive by depriving others of freedom, billions needlessly suffer amid plenty, and we move ever closer to ecological catastrophe is unacceptable. I also believe that as long as we live in a society divided into classes, there will be natural opposition to inequality and exploitation. Technical and political barriers to progress can’t be underestimated, but if we are to make something better of our shared world, socialist politics, broadly conceived, offer us the best tools we have for getting there.