Book Bits | 6.1.13

Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century
By Patrick Smith
Summary via publisher, Yale University Press
Americans cherish their national myths, some of which predate the country’s founding. But the time for illusions, nostalgia, and grand ambition abroad has gone by, Patrick Smith observes in this original book. Americans are now faced with a choice between a mythical idea of themselves, their nation, and their global “mission,” on the one hand, and on the other an idea of America that is rooted in historical consciousness. To cling to old myths will ensure America’s decline, Smith warns. He demonstrates with deep historical insight why a fundamentally new perspective and self-image are essential if the United States is to find its place in the twenty-first century.

Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World
By Adam LeBor
Review via New York Journal of Books
It tells you something of our benighted age that histories of central banking are suddenly rife, from Liquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World to Neil Irwin’s recent The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire.
Now we have Tower of Basel by Adam Lebor, a clever title with a slightly overstated subtitle: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank that Runs the World. This is a history of the Bank for International Settlements, an institution based in Basel, Switzerland. It is true: the BIS, even to many bankers, is shadowy, engaged in technical matters like payment systems and central banking coordination.
If it is running the world; however, it is doing a lousy job at it.
Intelligent Investing in Irrational Markets
By Panos Mourdoukoutas
Summary via publisher, Palgrave
The vast majority of published literature dealing with the 2008 financial crisis is written by three kinds of specialists: investment gurus with an exceptional investment track record, financial practitioners, and academicians. Books written by investment gurus provide investors with practical tips of managing money, but they lack key theoretical foundations and over generalize performance. Financial practitioners tend to oversimplify investing, presenting investors with advice that contradicts economic theory and financial history. And academics address these deficiencies but are too abstract; ignore the history of markets; and fail to connect effectively with the average investor. Intelligent Investing in Irrational Markets bridges these gaps by offering readers a unique framework through which investing is both a game of economics and psychology. Mourdoukoutas illustrates how solid investing tactics involve the basic principles of economics, which helps investors identify financial goals and constraints, as well as create optimal strategies for asset and portfolio allocation.
Tomorrow’s World: A Look at the Demographic and Socio-economic Structure of the World in 2032
By Clint Laurent
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Tomorrow’s World maps out the world’s near future through the lens of demography, dealing with issues of health and wealth; death and taxes; buying and selling; education and progress; and how and where we choose to live. The last century saw the world’s population quadruple, the emergence of mega-cities and increased urbanisation, and large changes in fertility, mortality, healthcare, education, and income. The world we live in today was profoundly shaped by those changes. This book looks at what’s happening now and how demographic changes will reshape the twenty-first century. It highlights the most significant current demographic realities and explains the implications they’ll have for our near future.
The European Union and the End of Politics
By James Heartfield
Summary via Amazon
Europe is in crisis, but the European Union just gets stronger. Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland have all been told that they must submit their budgets to EU-appointed bureaucrats. The ‘soft coup’ that put EU officials in charge of Greece and Italy shows that the Union is opposed to democracy. Instead of weakening the European Union, the budget crisis of 2012 has ended up with the eurocrats grabbing new powers to dictate terms. Over the years the forward march of the European Union has been widely misunderstood. James Heartfield explains that the rise of the EU is driven by the decline in political participation. Without political contestation national parliaments have become an empty shell. Where once elites drew authority from their own people, today they draw authority from the European Union, and other summits of world leaders. The growth of the European Union runs in tandem with the decline in national politics. As national sovereignty is hollowed out, technocratic administration from Brussels fills the void.
Resistance in the Age of Austerity: Nationalism, the Failure of the Left and the Return of God
By Owen Worth
Q&A with author via Fighting Talk by Mark Metcalf
Q: Why write this book?
A: In the aftermath of the current financial crisis, no concrete alternative had really been seriously given to reforming the way that the global economy was managed. Antonio Gramsci’s understanding of hegemony provides a way of explaining how concepts such as ‘austerity’ are bought into. I wanted to show that whilst there are competing alternatives that seek to build different worlds to the neoliberal one that we live in, these are too weak and fragmented to gain momentum.