Book Bits | 7.19.14

The Next Economic Disaster: Why It’s Coming and How to Avoid It
By Richard Vague
Summary via publisher, University of Pennsylvania Press
Current debates about economic crises typically focus on the role that public debt and debt-fueled public spending play in economic growth. This illuminating and provocative work shows that it is the rapid expansion of private rather than public debt that constrains growth and sparks economic calamities like the financial crisis of 2008. Relying on the findings of a team of economists, credit expert Richard Vague argues that the Great Depression of the 1930s, the economic collapse of the past decade, and many other sharp downturns around the world were all preceded by a spike in privately held debt. Vague presents an algorithm for predicting crises and argues that China may soon face disaster. Since American debt levels have not declined significantly since 2008, Vague believes that economic growth in the United States will suffer unless banks embrace a policy of debt restructuring.

The Status Quo Crisis: Global Financial Governance After the 2008 Meltdown
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
The 2008 financial crisis was the worst since the Great Depression and many voices argued that it would transform global financial governance. Analysts anticipated a “Bretton Woods moment”, referring to the 1944 conference that established the postwar international financial order. Widespread expectations of change were then reinforced by the creation of the G20 leaders’ forum, extensive debates about the dollar’s global role, the launching of international financial regulatory reforms, and the establishment of the Financial Stability Board. But half a decade later, how much has really changed? In The Status Quo Crisis, Helleiner surveys the landscape and argues that continuity has marked global financial governance more than dramatic transformation. The G20 leaders forum contributed much less to the management of the crisis than advertised. The US dollar remains unchallenged as the world’s dominant international currency. The market-friendly nature of pre-crisis international financial regulation has been not overturned in a significant manner. And the Financial Stability Board has strengthened the governance of international financial standards in only very modest ways.

The Murder of the Middle Class: How to Save Yourself and Your Family from the Criminal Conspiracy of the Century
By Wayne Allyn Root
Q&A with author via Human Events
Q: Do you think that we can ever recover from the way our nation is now?
A: We’re in a lot of trouble. It’s a very difficult road to hoe, and the people we elect, for the most part, sell out the minute they get there, and that’s the problem. They claim they’re for the people, but the minute they get elected, it’s about the next election, they’re making fundraising calls.
Can you turn around the American economy with people like that? Who don’t care about small business and don’t care about middle class people? We better get an entire U.S. Senate and House of Ted Cruzes. That is my example of a perfect United States senator: Ted Cruz. Rand Paul is another great example. I don’t always agree on everything Rand Paul says, but I still think all in all, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio, who are the Tea Party coalition of the Senate, are as close as we get to the kind of senators that could save America. If you had a Senate majority of those four, you could actually have a chance of saving America. Short of that, you’re not going to save America. We’re drifting into, if not Communism, then Socialist-light, Greece, Italy, France territory.

Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town
By Beth Macy
Review via The New York Times
In “Factory Man” — not the most compelling title, I’ll grant you — Ms. Macy tells how John D. Bassett III, of the renowned Bassett family of Virginia and North Carolina furniture makers, took on a Chinese industry whose low prices were undercutting American manufacturers and driving many out of business. Mr. Bassett didn’t actually defeat the Chinese, but by winning a celebrated case against them before the United States International Trade Commission, he was able to keep afloat his own company, Vaughan-Bassett Furniture, saving hundreds of jobs.

Is the Planet Full?
By Ian Goldin
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
What are the impacts of population growth? Can our planet support the demands of the ten billion people anticipated to be the world’s population by the middle of this century? While it is common to hear about the problems of overpopulation, might there be unexplored benefits of increasing numbers of people in the world? How can we both consider and harness the potential benefits brought by a healthier, wealthier and larger population? May more people mean more scientists to discover how our world works, more inventors and thinkers to help solve the world’s problems, more skilled people to put these ideas into practice?

Rationing Is Not a Four-Letter Word: Setting Limits on Healthcare
By Philip M. Rosoff
Summary via publisher, MIT Press
Most people would agree that the healthcare system in the United States is a mess. Healthcare accounts for a larger percentage of gross domestic product in the United States than in any other industrialized nation, but health outcomes do not reflect this enormous investment. In this book, Philip Rosoff offers a provocative proposal for providing quality healthcare to all Americans and controlling the out-of-control costs that threaten the economy. He argues that rationing—often associated in the public’s mind with such negatives as unplugging ventilators, death panels, and socialized medicine—is not a dirty word. A comprehensive, centralized, and fair system of rationing is the best way to distribute the benefits of modern medicine equitably while achieving significant cost savings.

Edmund Burke: The First Conservative
By Jesse Norman
Review via The Enlightened Economist
I’ve found this very interesting, especially the last chapter on what light reading Burke can shed on the philosophy shaping modern political debate, namely liberal (UK sense) individualism and its counterpart in economics, the neoclassical free market model. The book argues that the assumptions of self-interest and individualism in economic models have spilled outside their proper domain of technical economic analysis: “What starts with an economist’s assumption ends up as a deep cultural pathology.” There is furthermore the loss of the basic trust uniting the generations, Burke’s famous point about the “partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Those who are to be born, in particular, cannot participate in the free market,
The book concludes: “Burke offers a profound critique of the market fundamentalism now prevalent in modern society. But he does so not from the left of the political spectrum but from the right. … Understood conservatively, markets are not idolized but treated as cultural artefacts mediated by trust and tradition. Capitalism becomes, not a one size fits all ideology of consumption but a spectrum of different models to be evaluated on their own merits. Burke would note the extraordinary greed and self-dealing seen over the past decade by the modern nabobs of banking and finance in a series of cartels disguised as markets…”