Book Bits | 5.25.13

Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America
By Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane
Review via Publishers Weekly
Political paralysis leading to fiscal collapse is the “existential threat” facing America, argues this stimulating, contentious economic history. Economists Hubbard (dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business) and Kane (chief economist of the Hudson Institute), both one-time advisers to the 2012 Romney-Ryan campaign, conduct a loose, engaging tour through history, pinpointing the economic failings of states from ancient Rome (debased currency, expensive bread and circuses, totalitarian labor controls) and Ming China (squabbling between court mandarins and eunuchs that scotched trade initiatives) to contemporary Europe and the United States (unsustainable government entitlements and debt). They frame the perennial debate over national decline in novel economic terms, ranking countries by a metric of “economic power”—GDP times productivity times the square root of growth—that puts America still uneasily on top.

Hedge Hogs: The Cowboy Traders Behind Wall Street’s Largest Hedge Fund Disaster
By Barbara T. Dreyfuss
Review via Publishers Weekly
Megalomaniacal traders trash the market while battling for supremacy in this lively financial melodrama. Journalist and former financial analyst Dreyfuss smartly deploys her inside knowledge of Wall Street in following Brian Hunter, an energy trader for Amaranth LLC whose colossal bets on natural gas futures all but bankrupted the firm in 2006 and took down many a retiree’s pension in the process. She makes his duel with rival supertrader John Arnold a choreography of canny (and possibly illegal) market manipulations in which he eventually outsmarted himself: the gas contracts he bought were so huge that they moved the market upward—and they were also too big to sell without causing a self-defeating market plunge that might wreck his firm. Dreyfuss’s lucid, perceptive tour of the high-wire culture of hedge funds highlights just how vapid Wall Street’s pretense of market expertise and risk analysis really is
Crash and Beyond: Causes and Consequences of the Global Financial Crisis
By Andrew Farlow
Summary via publisher, Oxford Unviversity Press
In 2008 the world was plunged into financial and economic crisis. This book explores the multiple roots of the crisis, including the build-up of global economic imbalances, the explosion in the use of novel financial instruments, the mismanagement of risk, and the specific roles played by housing and debt. It reviews the evidence that, on the eve of the crisis, all was not well and that many policy makers and finance industry leaders ignored the dangers. The book examines in depth the measures taken to rescue the financial system and to stabilize the global economy.
Cool War: The Future of Global Competition
By Noah Feldman
Interview with author via The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC)
Noah Feldman looks at the future of U.S.-China relations, and how their coming power struggle will reshape the playing field for nations around the world. He argues that we’re entering an era of renewed global struggle: the era of Cool War—between the United States and China. In Cool War: The Future of Global Competition, Feldman depicts what he sees as a likely contest for dominance, alliances, and resources.
The Great Depression of the 1930s: Lessons for Today
Edited by Nicholas Crafts and Peter Fearon
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
Understanding the Great Depression has never been more relevant than in today’s economic crisis. This edited collection provides an authoritative introduction to the Great Depression as it affected the advanced countries in the 1930s. The contributions are by acknowledged experts in the field and cover in detail the experiences of Britain, Germany, and, the United States, while also seeing the depression as an international disaster. The crisis entailed the collapse of the international monetary system, sovereign default, and banking crises in many countries in the context of the most severe downturn in western economic history.
The Fifth Sun- Financial Terrorism and the Debtordollar
By Ralph O. Nieders
Summary via publisher, Nieders Books
The Fifth Sun shows not only how a dozen men could destroy the world’s largest banks, but also the entire global economy. It exposes the reality that neither governments nor central banks can control the value of their currencies nor the wealth of their nations. It shows how we are no longer dealing with the massive acquisition of gold, but of debt, debt controlled by individuals who can both build and destroy empires by simply moving numbers. These individuals are no longer found in New York, London and Hong Kong. They have now emerged from Mexico City to Teheran. This is the basis of Financial Terrorism and the Debtordollar.
The Monetary Imagination of Edgar Allan Poe: Banking, Currency and Politics in the Writings
By Heinz Tschachler
Summary via publisher, McFarland Books
In this first-of-its-kind treatment, Heinz Tschachler offers an account of Edgar Allan Poe’s relation to the world of banking and money in antebellum America. He contends that Poe gave the full force of his censure to the acrimonious debates about America’s money, Andrew Jackson’s bank war, the panic of 1837 and the ensuing depression, and the nation’s inability to furnish a “sound and uniform currency.” Poe’s censure is overt in his early satires, more subdued in “The Gold-Bug,” and almost an undercurrent in writings that enter into and historicize the discovery of gold in California.