Book Bits | 9.29.2012

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t
By Nate SIlver
Review by Burton Malkiel via The Wall Street Journal
It is almost a parlor game, especially as elections approach—not only the little matter of who will win but also: by how much? For Nate Silver, however, prediction is more than a game. It is a science, or something like a science anyway. Mr. Silver is a well-known forecaster and the founder of the New York Times political blog, which accurately predicted the outcome of the last presidential election. Before he was a Times blogger, he was known as a careful analyst of (often widely unreliable) public-opinion polls and, not least, as the man who hit upon an innovative system for forecasting the performance of Major League Baseball players. In “The Signal and the Noise,” he takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the success and failure of predictions in a wide variety of fields and offers advice about how we might all improve our forecasting skill.

America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
By James Gustave Speth
Summary via publisher, Yale University Press
In this third volume of his award-winning American Crisis series, James Gustave Speth makes his boldest and most ambitious contribution yet. He looks unsparingly at the sea of troubles in which the United States now finds itself, charts a course through the discouragement and despair commonly felt today, and envisions what he calls America the Possible, an attractive and plausible future that we can still realize. The book identifies a dozen features of the American political economy—the country’s basic operating system—where transformative change is essential. It spells out the specific changes that are needed to move toward a new political economy—one in which the true priority is to sustain people and planet.
The Aftershock Investor: A Crash Course in Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy
By David Wiedemer, and Robert Wiedemer, Cindy Spitzer
Summary via publisher, Wiley
From the authors who accurately predicted the domino fall of the conjoined real estate, stock, and private debt bubbles that led to the financial crisis of 2008 comes the definitive guide to protection and profit in 2012 and beyond. Based on the authors’ unmatched track record of precision predictions in their three landmark books, America’s Bubble Economy, Aftershock, and Aftershock, Second Edition (Wiley, 2011), their next book offers what readers have been clamoring for: A detailed guide to how to put Aftershock in action, with 14 new chapters on what investors need to know to survive and thrive in the next global money meltdown. The Aftershock Investor shows readers:
How Do We Fix This Mess?: The Economic Price of Having it all, and the Route to Lasting Prosperity
By Robert Preston
Essay by author via The Guardian
“How do we fix this mess?” That may be one of the stupidest questions I have ever asked myself, as of course I don’t know the answer. What I do know, however, is that few of the structural flaws in how the global economy operates, which took us from unsustainable boom to intractable bust, have been fixed. And that leads me to fear that in the rich west, and perhaps more widely, it will be many years yet before we enjoy the kind of recovery that raises most people’s living standards.
Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense about the Economy
By Anat Shenker-Osorio
Summary via publisher, Public Affairs Books
Today the term “dismal science” seems almost too kind: too many of today’s economic arguments deserve the mantle of mysticism. In the name of appeasing our fickle economy, politicians have slashed services, laid off public workers, and threatened the future of the social safety net. And yet all of these “sacrifices” only make matters worse. In Don’t Buy It, political communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio shows how wrong-headed ways of conceptualizing the economy have led to bad decisions and worse policies. When we call the economy “unhealthy” or “recovering,” we give it the status of a living being. Americans must submit to any indignity required to “keep the economy happy.” Tread lightly, we can’t risk irritating the economy!