Book Bits | 7.05.14

Understanding Alternative Investments: Creating Diversified Portfolios that Ride the Wave of Investment Success
By Stephen Todd Walker
Summary via publisher, Palgrave Macmillan
Using ground-breaking, never before seen data on alternative investments, Stephen Todd Walker explores how to apply new risk measurements to an alternative portfolio. Through his 20+ years of expertise in finance, the author explains how to go about carefully selecting the best alternatives for you and the right time to invest in them, including real estate, hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, and more. The book shows the merits of owning alternative investments and helps investors who want to create better, more diversified portfolios.

Investing for a Lifetime: Managing Wealth for the “New Normal”
By Richard C. Marston
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Investing for a Lifetime is designed to make saving and investing understandable to the investor. Wharton Professor Richard C. Marston, 2014 recipient of the Investment Management Consultants Association’s prestigious Matthew R. McArthur Award, guides an investor through the main investment decisions throughout a lifetime.

What Does the Minimum Wage Do?
By Dale Belman and Paul J. Wolfson
Summary via publisher, Upjohn Institute
The minimum wage debate is, among other things, contentious, polarizing, and at the forefront of ongoing political debate. Some argue that raising the minimum wage will pull working individuals and families out of poverty while reducing income inequality at an acceptable cost to society. Others contend that raising the minimum wage is a job killer: that when the cost of labor increases, demand for that labor decreases. Supporters of this argument cite a February 2014 CBO report that points to potential job losses numbering 500,000 as a result of President Obama’s proposed national minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour. Others, including noted economists, criticize the report for being based on “off-the-shelf estimates” and say that it fails to put an emphasis on the more rigorous studies examined in the report. And while policymakers have voted recently to increase the minimum wage in several states and municipalities, it will be years before the impacts of these increases, if any, will be detectable. The bottom line is that all the debate and recent action by policymakers does little to add clarity to the effects of raising the minimum wage.

Inside the Banking Crisis: The Untold Story
By Hugh Pym
Review via The Irish Times
As Pym observes, the story of the crisis has no neat ending and while future generations may have cause to be grateful to the politicians and officials who prevented a catastrophe, they will not thank them for leaving massive debts and liabilities to be paid for a long time to come.
Still, as this book recounts in great detail, it could have been a lot worse. With the exception of small group of ministers and policy-makers working frantically in Whitehall and the City of London, nobody going about their business in October 2008 had any idea of just how vulnerable Britain’s financial system was.

Global Imperialism and the Great Crisis: The Uncertain Future of Capitalism
By Ernesto Screpanti
Review via Monthly Review Press
In this provocative study, economist Ernesto Screpanti argues that imperialism—far from disappearing or mutating into a benign “globalization”—has in fact entered a new phase, which he terms “global imperialism.” This is a phase defined by multinational firms cut loose from the nation-state framework and free to chase profits over the entire surface of the globe. No longer dependent on nation-states for building a political consensus that accommodates capital accumulation, these firms seek to bend governments to their will and destroy barriers to the free movement of capital. And while military force continues to play an important role in imperial strategy, it is the discipline of the global market that keeps workers in check by pitting them against each other no matter what their national origin.

The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China
By Kerry Brown
Summary via publisher, I. B. Tauris
China has become the powerhouse of the world economy and home to 1 in 5 of the world’s population, yet we know almost nothing of the people who lead it. How does one become the leader of the world’s newest superpower? And who holds the real power in the Chinese system? In The New Emperors, the noted China expert Kerry Brown journeys deep into the heart of the secretive Communist Party. China’s system might have its roots in peasant rebellion but it is now firmly under the control of a power-conscious Beijing elite, almost half of whose members are related directly to former senior Party leaders. Brown reveals the intrigue and scandal surrounding the internal battle raging between two China’s: one founded by Mao on Communist principles, and a modern China in which ‘to get rich is glorious’. At the centre of it all sits the latest Party Secretary, Xi Jinping – the son of a revolutionary, with links both to big business and to the People’s Liberation Army. His rise to power is symbolic of the new emperors leading the world’s next superpower.

Quantitative Finance: A Simulation-Based Introduction Using Excel
By Matt Davison
Summary via publisher, CRC Press
Quantitative Finance: A Simulation-Based Introduction Using Excel provides an introduction to financial mathematics for students in applied mathematics, financial engineering, actuarial science, and business administration. The text not only enables students to practice with the basic techniques of financial mathematics, but it also helps them gain significant intuition about what the techniques mean, how they work, and what happens when they stop working.