Book Bits | 8.4.2012

Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget
By David Wessel
Interview with author via Yahoo’s Daily Ticker
You’re probably aware the U.S. government spends a lot of money and more than it brings in. But few Americans have a really good understanding of how the budget works, where the money comes from and where it goes. In Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget, Wall Street Journal economics editor David Wessel shines a light on the federal budget and seeks to clear up some of the “myths and unrealities”….

The Betrayal of the American Dream
By Donald Barlett and James Steele
Review via The Wall Street Journal
Beware of investigative reporters offering economic analysis. There will usually be a conspiracy theory lurking somewhere. A serious study of economics—macroeconomics especially—doesn’t mate well with conspiracy theories. The economic behavior of 312 million Americans and their trading partners abroad is far too complex to be successfully manipulated by some Wall Street Svengali or Beltway bum. Economics makes its own rules. But conspiracy theories sell well, and “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” by Donald Barlett and James Steele, has a fair chance to do as well as their 1992 prequel, “America: What Went Wrong?,” which made at least one best-seller list. It was based on the authors’ lengthy Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the Philadelphia Inquirer about “inequality in America.” Twenty years have gone by, and, judging from the similarities of the two books, things are as bad as ever.
Public Forces and Private Politics in American Big Business
By Timothy Werner
Summary via publisher, Cambridge University Press
What are the political motivations behind firms’ decisions to adopt policies that self-regulate their behavior in a manner that is beyond compliance with state, federal and local law? Public Forces and Private Politics in American Big Business advances a new understanding of the firm as a political actor that expands beyond the limited conceptualizations offered by economists and organization theorists. Timothy Werner develops a general theory of private politics that is tested using three case studies: the environment, gay rights and executive compensation. Using the conclusions of these case studies and an analysis of interviews with executives at ‘Fortune 500’ firms, Werner finds that politics can contribute significantly to our understanding of corporate decision-making on private policies and corporate social responsibility in the United States.
Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market
Edited by Damien Cahill, Lindy Edwards, and Frank Stilwell
Summary via publisher, Edward Elgar Publishing
In this timely book, leading scholars of neoliberalism, together with emerging researchers from a range of intellectual traditions, reflect upon the nature of neoliberalism in light of the recent and ongoing global financial crisis. What emerges is an enlightening picture of the diversity of neoliberalism. The complex relationships between theory and practice are highlighted as the contributors recognise the need to move beyond the commonplace notion that neoliberalism is simply a system of free markets. Topical chapters examine the implications of the current crisis for neoliberalism, the likelihood of alternatives, and how these might arise.
The Family Office Book: Investing Capital for the Ultra-Affluent
By Richard Wilson
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Understanding the basics of the family office industry is essential if you want to succeed in establishing a successful fund for a wealthy family. That’s where The Family Office Book comes in. Outlining key strategies for family offices, from what a family office is to how the industry operates, and important global differences, the book is packed with interviews with experts from leading family offices. Providing readers with need-to-know tips and tools to succeed, The Family Office Book gives current and future practitioners everything they need to know about this popular segment of the financial industry…. A comprehensive and reliable resource, The Family Office Book details exactly how family offices are choosing investment managers and why, and how, to break into the industry.
Too Much Is Not Enough: Incentives in Executive Compensation
By Robert W. Kolb
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
The scholarly literature on executive compensation is vast. As such, this literature provides an unparalleled resource for studying the interaction between the setting of incentives (or the attempted setting of incentives) and the behavior that is actually adduced. From this literature, there are several reasons for believing that one can set incentives in executive compensation with a high rate of success in guiding CEO behavior, and one might expect CEO compensation to be a textbook example of the successful use of incentives. Also, as executive compensation has been studied intensively in the academic literature, we might also expect the success of incentive compensation to be well-documented. Historically, however, this has been very far from the case. In Too Much Is Not Enough, Robert W. Kolb studies the performance of incentives in executive compensation across many dimensions of CEO performance. The book begins with an overview of incentives and unintended consequences. Then it focuses on the theory of incentives as applied to compensation generally, and as applied to executive compensation particularly.