Book Bits: 5 March 2022

Trillion Dollar Triage: How Jay Powell and the Fed Battled a President and a Pandemic—and Prevented Economic Disaster
Nick Timiraos
Review via Publishers Weekly
Timiraos weaves a lucid behind-the-scenes narrative of the early Covid panic, when Powell and the Fed staff struggled hour by hour to get money out to a collapsing economy and worked with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a fractious Congress to cobble together emergency fiscal measures, while cogently exploring the economic trade-offs among unemployment, inflation, stability, and moral hazard. This is a riveting story of policy making in crisis and an illuminating examination of how drastically the Fed’s role in the economy has changed.

Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality
Lily Geismer
Summary via pubsliher (Public Affairs Books)
For decades, the Republican Party has been known as the party of the rich: arguing for “business-friendly” policies like deregulation and tax cuts. But this incisive political history shows that the current inequality crisis was also enabled by a Democratic Party that catered to the affluent. The result is one of the great missed opportunities in political history: a moment when we had the chance to change the lives of future generations and were too short-sighted to take it. Historian Lily Geismer recounts how the Clinton-era Democratic Party sought to curb poverty through economic growth and individual responsibility rather than asking the rich to make any sacrifices. Fueled by an ethos of “doing well by doing good,” microfinance, charter schools, and privately funded housing developments grew trendy. Though politically expedient and sometimes profitable in the short term, these programs fundamentally weakened the safety net for the poor.

Owning the Sun: A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines
Alexander Zaitchik
Review via The Progressive Magazine
In Owning the Sun, Zaitchik notes that Thomas Jefferson, like many other Founding Fathers, saw most patents as anathema to the newly created nation of the United States. “After inventing a tool that reduced the labor required to process hemp stalks, Jefferson did not seek a patent on the device, but published the specifications of his invention anonymously, ‘in order to forestall the prevention of its use by some interloping patentee.’ ”
The Enlightenment philosophers, and the political leaders that were later influenced by them, had a strong devotion to science and freedom of thought. Patents, particularly on any invention that was of a medical or scientific nature, were seen as fundamentally incompatible with scientific progress and intellectual freedom.

The World After Capital
Albert Wenger
Excerpt via book’s website
As a venture capitalist, I’m often asked: “What’s the next big thing?” People tend to ask this when they’re looking for a trend in technology, expecting me to talk to them about robotics or virtual reality. But I think that’s a boring interpretation of the question. These trends come and go as part of hype cycles that represent the waxing and waning of media interest in a particular technology. Instead I answer, “Oh, nothing much—just the end of the Industrial Age.” That momentous change is the subject of this book.
The World After Capital is unabashedly about some truly big subjects. In order to tackle why the Industrial Age is ending and what is coming next, I will examine such things as the nature of technology and what it means to be human. It might seem a wildly ambitious thesis, but I argue that we are facing a transition as profound as the one which took humanity from the Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age, so nothing less will do.

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