Book Bits | 6.23.2012

Dark Pools: High-Speed Traders, A.I. Bandits, and the Threat to the Global Financial System
By Scott Patterson
Summary via publisher, Crown Business
A news-breaking account of the global stock market’s subterranean battles, Dark Pools portrays the rise of the “bots”- artificially intelligent systems that execute trades in milliseconds and use the cover of darkness to out-maneuver the humans who’ve created them. In the beginning was Josh Levine, an idealistic programming genius who dreamed of wresting control of the market from the big exchanges that, again and again, gave the giant institutions an advantage over the little guy. Levine created a computerized trading hub named Island where small traders swapped stocks, and over time his invention morphed into a global electronic stock market that sent trillions in capital through a vast jungle of fiber-optic cables. By then, the market that Levine had sought to fix had turned upside down, birthing secretive exchanges called dark pools and a new species of trading machines that could think, and that seemed, ominously, to be slipping the control of their human masters. Dark Pools is the fascinating story of how global markets have been hijacked by trading robots–many so self-directed that humans can’t predict what they’ll do next.

Economic Fables
By Ariel Rubinstein
Summary via publisher, Open Book Publishers
Part memoir, part crash-course in economic theory, this deeply engaging book by one of the world’s foremost economists looks at economic ideas through a personal lens. Together with an introduction to some of the central concepts in modern economic thought, Ariel Rubinstein offers some powerful and entertaining reflections on his childhood, family and career. In doing so, he challenges many of the central tenets of game theory, and sheds light on the role economics can play in society at large. Economic Fables is as thought-provoking for seasoned economists as it is enlightening for newcomers to the field.
How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life
By Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky
Review via The Guardian
The Skidelskys resist the idea that growth has a natural limit as some sort of metaphysical fancy, thus distancing themselves from many ecological approaches that regard the planet as a finite resource that cannot sustain continual economic expansion. Technology, the Skidelskys insist, will come to our aid. Moreover, they accuse deep ecological approaches to economics as harbouring a secret puritanism. “Most climate radicals are also passionate haters of greed and luxury, people who in previous ages might have been Cromwells or Savonarolas.” The problem, as they see it, is that economic growth has been pursued as an end in itself and not been indexed to any sense of what a good life might look like. Indeed, the very idea of the good life has been so eliminated from public consideration that we are left floundering with the vague rhetoric of happiness, something that has proved insatiable and elusive.
Peerless and Periled: The Paradox of American Leadership in The World Economic Order
By Kati Suominen
Discussion by author via the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.
In this video GMF Transatlantic Fellow Kati Suominen discusses her new book, “Peerless and Periled: The Paradox of American Leadership in The World Economic Order.” She outlines the impact of economic crisis on global powers and why she believe America can continue to lead the world economically.

Capitalisms and Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
Edited by Glenn Morgan and Richard Whitley
The early twenty-first century is witnessing both an increasing internationalization of many markets, firms, and regulatory institutions, and a reinforcement of the key role of nation states in managing economic development, financial crises, and market upheavals in many OECD and developing economies. Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives from leading US and European scholars, this book analyses how capitalism and national capitalisms are changing in this context. It focuses on the economic rise of new countries such as the BRICs, the increasing influence of regional organizations such as the EU and NAFTA, and new forms of private and public international regulation. It also considers how states are adapting their economic policies and processes in this new environment, and the consequences of these adaptations for inequality and risk within different societies.
Africa’s Future: Darkness to Destiny
By Duncan Clarke
Review via Business Day
Despite the heady growth on the continent, he notes that half of African states are in economic distress, going on the International Monetary Fund’s lists for those countries judged to be struggling with public debt.
Private investment in sub-Saharan Africa last year remained low — at just 15% of gross domestic product (GDP), compared with 30% in Asia and below the norms of developing countries of between 18% and 19%.
Added to this, the cost of replacing infrastructure on the continent has doubled every five years — today sitting at about $45bn — and more than 30 African countries still experience power shortages. Africa is also vulnerable to health, famine and disease, which cost the continent about $12bn every year.
Clarke points out conflicts in Africa effectively erase 10-15 years of growth in their respective countries. In some it has resulted in a 30%-40% cut in GDP.
Transformation of the Employment Structure in the EU and USA, 1995-2007
Edited by Enrique Fernandez-Macias, John Hurley and Donald Storrie
Summary via publisher, Palgrave Macmillan
To what extent did European countries create ‘more and better jobs’ – as the EU’s Lisbon agenda targeted – after 1995? And to what extent did employment growth in Europe between 1995-2007 reflect the pattern of growing good and bad jobs and a ‘disappearing middle’ identified in the US labour market? Addressing these questions, this collection describes the changing structure of jobs during the period of robust employment expansion that preceded the 2008 financial crisis. It also provides analysis of labour market developments in these developed economies in terms of gender, international mobility and debates over the quality of work. All of the contributions in this collection originate from a common jobs-based, structural approach to labour market analysis using the same comprehensive dataset.
The Economics of Collusion: Cartels and Bidding Rings
By Robert Marshall and Leslie Marx
Summary via publisher, MIT Press
Explicit collusion is an agreement among competitors to suppress rivalry that relies on interfirm communication and/or transfers. Rivalry between competitors erodes profits; the suppression of rivalry through collusion is one avenue by which firms can enhance profits. Many cartels and bidding rings function for years in a stable and peaceful manner despite the illegality of their agreements and incentives for deviation by their members. In The Economics of Collusion, Robert Marshall and Leslie Marx offer an examination of collusive behavior: what it is, why it is profitable, how it is implemented, and how it might be detected.