Book Bits | 7 April 2018

Last Resort: The Financial Crisis and the Future of Bailouts
By Eric A. Posner
Summary via publisher (University of Chicago Press)
The bailouts during the recent financial crisis enraged the public. They felt unfair—and counterproductive: people who take risks must be allowed to fail. If we reward firms that make irresponsible investments, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, aren’t we encouraging them to continue to act irresponsibly, setting the stage for future crises? And beyond the ethics of it was the question of whether the government even had the authority to bail out failing firms like Bear Stearns and AIG. The answer, according to Eric A. Posner, is no. The federal government freely and frequently violated the law with the bailouts—but it did so in the public interest.

To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk
By John C. Hulsman
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Our baffling new multipolar world grows ever more complex, desperately calling for new ways of thinking, particularly when it comes to political risk. To Dare More Boldly provides those ways, telling the story of the rise of political risk analysis, both as a discipline and a lucrative high-stakes industry that guides the strategic decisions of corporations and governments around the world. It assesses why recent predictions have gone so wrong and boldly puts forward ten analytical commandments that can stand the test of time.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
By Hans Rosling with Anna Rosling Rönnlund and‎ Ola Rosling
Review via CNBC
Billionaire and avid reader Bill Gates has a new favorite book: “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.”
It’s written by Gates’ late friend, Swedish statistician and global health expert Hans Rosling, and Rosling’s son and daughter-in-law, who helped finish the book after he died in 2017.
“Factfulness” offers a different framework for how to view the world, Gates writes on his blog: “The bulk of the book is devoted to 10 instincts that keep us from seeing the world factfully,” like the gap instinct, which is the temptation we have to divide things into two distinct and extreme groups. “With each [instinct], he offers practical advice about how to overcome our innate biases.”

The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future
By Andrew Yang
Review via
“All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society,” said former tech executive Andrew Yang in The New York Times. The longshot Democratic presidential candidate added, “That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.” Yang basically lays out his campaign platform in his new book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future.

The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon
By David Webber
Summary via publisher (Harvard University Press)
When Steven Burd, CEO of the supermarket chain Safeway, cut wages and benefits, starting a five-month strike by 59,000 unionized workers, he was confident he would win. But where traditional labor action failed, a novel approach was more successful. With the aid of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a $300 billion pension fund, workers led a shareholder revolt that unseated three of Burd’s boardroom allies. In The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon, David Webber uses cases such as Safeway’s to shine a light on labor’s most potent remaining weapon: its multitrillion-dollar pension funds.

New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You
By Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms
Interview with co-author Timms via Fortune
If the world seems increasingly wild and unfamiliar, you’re not alone. Hashtags, hate speech, and social movements ignite without warning, companies (like Uber) and candidates (like Obama and Trump) ascend from nowhere, and every day we are confronted with more evidence that technology is enabling both the best and worst human impulses.
A new book aims to explain all this and more. In New Power: How Power Works In Our Hyperconnected World – And How To Make It Work for You, authors Jeremy Heimans, the CEO of Purpose, a strategy consultancy, and Henry Timms, the executive director of 92nd Street Y, poured years of research, analysis, and their own experiences into a book that describes the shift in how power now operates in the world and what it means for all of us.

Commodities: Markets, Performance, and Strategies
Edited by H. Kent Baker, et al.
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Commodities: Markets, Performance, and Strategies provides a comprehensive view of commodity markets by describing and analyzing historical commodity performance, vehicles for investing in commodities, portfolio strategies, and current topics. It begins with the basics of commodity markets and various investment vehicles. The book then highlights the unique risk and return profiles of commodity investments, along with the dangers from mismanaged risk practices. The book also provides important insights into recent developments, including high frequency trading, financialization, and the emergence of virtual currencies as commodities.