Book Bits | 4 October 2014

The Euro Trap: On Bursting Bubbles, Budgets, and Beliefs
By Hans-Werner Sinn
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
This book offers a critical assessment of the history of the euro, its crisis, and the rescue measures taken by the European Central Bank and the community of states. The euro induced huge capital flows from the northern to the southern countries of the Eurozone that triggered an inflationary credit bubble in the latter, deprived them of their competitiveness, and made them vulnerable to the financial crisis that spilled over from the US in 2007 and 2008. As private capital shied away from the southern countries, the ECB helped out by providing credit from the local money-printing presses. The ECB became heavily exposed to investment risks in the process, and subsequently had to be bailed out by intergovernmental rescue operations that provided replacement credit for the ECB credit, which itself had replaced the dwindling private credit. The interventions stretched the legal strictures stipulated by the Maastricht Treaty which, in the absence of a European federal state, had granted the ECB a very limited mandate. These interventions created a path dependency that effectively made parliaments vicarious agents of the ECB’s Governing Council.

The Social Life of Money
By Nigel Dodd
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Questions about the nature of money have gained a new urgency in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Even as many people have less of it, there are more forms and systems of money, from local currencies and social lending to mobile money and Bitcoin. Yet our understanding of what money is—and what it might be—hasn’t kept pace. In The Social Life of Money, Nigel Dodd, one of today’s leading sociologists of money, reformulates the theory of the subject for a postcrisis world in which new kinds of money are proliferating. What counts as legitimate action by central banks that issue currency and set policy? What underpins the right of nongovernmental actors to create new currencies? And how might new forms of money surpass or subvert government-sanctioned currencies? To answer such questions, The Social Life of Money takes a fresh and wide-ranging look at modern theories of money.

The United States in a Warming World: The Political Economy of Government, Business, and Public Responses to Climate Change
By Thomas L. Brewer
Summary via publisher (Cambridge University Press)
Addressing the widespread desire to better understand how climate change issues are addressed in the United States, this book provides an unparalleled analysis of features of the US economic and political system that are essential to understanding its responses to climate change. The introductory chapter presents a firm historical context, with the remainder of the book offering balanced and factual discussions of government, business and public responses to issues of energy policies, congressional activity on climate change, and US government involvement in international conferences. Abundant statistical evidence illustrates key concepts and supports analytic themes such as market failures, free riders, and the benefits and costs of alternative courses of action among industry sectors and geographic areas within the US.

Economic Elites, Crises, and Democracy: Alternatives Beyond Neoliberal Capitalism
By Andres Solimano
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Economic Elites, Crises, and Democracy analyzes critical topics of contemporaneous capitalism. Andrés Solimano, President of the International Center for Globalization and Development, focuses on economic elites and the super rich, the nature of entrepreneurship, the rise of corporate´s technostructure, the internal fragmentation of the middle class, and the marginalization of the working poor. While examining historical episodes of economic and financial crises from the 19th century to the present, he reviews a variety of related economic theories and policies, including austerity, which have been enacted in attempts to overcome these crises.

Markets over Mao: The Rise of Private Business in China
By Nicholas R. Lardy
Review via The Financial Times
“China’s economic rise in the reform era (which began in 1978) is largely the story of the expanding role of markets and private enterprise,” writes Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “The private sector is now the major driver of China’s economic growth, employment and exports and in recent years has even begun to contribute to the increase in China’s outbound direct foreign investment.”
This is both a counterintuitive and cautiously optimistic portrayal of the sources of growth in China today. Lardy is not given to overstatement, nor to ideology. He uses a careful study of large amounts of data to demolish the widespread impression that state-owned enterprises are more entrenched than ever, as a result of favourable policies including preferential access to credit.