Book Bits | 9.1.2012

The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era
By Michael Grunwald
Review via The Washington Independent Review of Books
If the Obama campaign sent The New New Deal to the 5 or 6 percent identified in polls as undecided, the investment might produce more votes than all the megamillions spent on attack ads. Not that Michael Grunwald has written a mash note to the incumbent. The New New Deal inflicts some deserved lumps on the president, his staff and his ostensible supporters in Congress. But Grunwald argues, persuasively, that Obama also deserves credit for two critical accomplishments: saving the country from a depression and setting in motion much-needed major changes in the fields of health care, green energy, education and transportation. He also explains why so many Americans missed the news.

The Best Business Writing 2012
Edited by Dean Starkman, et al.
Summary via publisher, Columbia Journalism Review Books
In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Damian Tambini, a professor at the London School of Economics, wrote a paper that asked a pretty basic question: “What Is Financial Journalism For?” As it happens, Tambini found that no one could really agree what business and financial journalism is for, or even who it’s for: Is it for investors? Markets? Or is it for everybody, the public? We believe we know the answer: Yes. Welcome to Best Business Writing 2012, the first in an annual series that will collect the best English-language writing on business, finance, and economics.
Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence
By William L. Silber
Review via The Economist
Alan Greenspan may be the most famous central banker of the modern era, but Paul Volcker has been the most influential. He played a crucial diplomatic role during the death of the Bretton Woods financial system in the early 1970s, which severed the link between money and gold and ushered in floating exchange rates. As head of the Federal Reserve from 1979, Mr Volcker then tamed the inflation that ensued, bringing monetary stability in the face of political opposition to the very high interest rates required. In doing so, he set the template for modern economic management, built around an independent central bank with an implicit, or explicit, inflation target.
Health Care for Some: Rights and Rationing in the United States since 1930
By Beatrix Hoffman
Summary via publisher, University of Chicago Press
The 2010 Affordable Care Act is a sweeping reform to the US health care system. Despite the fact that nearly every other developed country in the world considers health care a right, the passage of the act in the United States was hard fought because of a staunch and vocal opposition to universal health care among many American lawmakers. Why has the United States been so continually divided on this issue? In Health Care for Some, Beatrix Hoffman offers an explanation in the form of an engaging and in-depth look at America’s long tradition of unequal access to health care.
The Nature of Risk
By David X. Martin
Summary via author’s web site
The Nature of Risk is a short, entertaining story designed to help readers face one of modern life’s most important and difficult tasks—confronting risk. Free of complicated theories or formulas, The Nature of Risk relies instead on a cast of familiar, forest-dwelling animals, each of which embodies a different approach to risk management. At least one of these approaches will seem familiar to every reader—whether they knew they had an approach to risk management or not. Then, as the narrative unfolds, the strengths and weaknesses of each approach will be put to a series of natural tests. Finally, at the conclusion of the story, readers will find a short review section designed to help them frame their first attempts at managing risk—with or without professional help.
The Crises of Capitalism: A Different Study of Political Economy
By Saral Sarkar
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Sarkar (Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?, 1999, etc.) casts himself as not merely a reformer of capitalism, but rather a radical who believes no amount of tinkering will prop up a capitalist system that’s come up against the twin killers of global warming and the imminent depletion of vital, nonrenewable natural resources. Neither of these developments, he insists, could have been foreseen either by the defenders of capitalism or its fiercest critics. Focusing primarily on the 20th century, the author engages in a critique of the theories of prominent economic commentators, carefully distinguishing the historical crises in capitalism—the Great Depression, the mid-’70s stagflation, the disruptions caused by globalization, the Great Recession of 2008—from the crisis of capitalism, the system’s inevitable collision with the newly appreciated fact of finite resources.