Book Bits | 9 June 2018

The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era
By Barry Eichengreen
Review via Foreign Affairs
In this survey of two centuries of populist movements and political revolts in Western democracies, Eichengreen argues that from the Luddites in early-nineteenth-century England to the upheavals of the interwar period, economic insecurity, labor dislocations, and rising inequality fueled backlash politics. Yet not all periods of economic hardship generate populist revolts, and not all populist revolts succeed. Eichengreen shows that populism tends to thrive most when economic insecurity exposes the divergent interests of the people and the elites. Societies become particularly ripe for populist backlashes in the wake of financial crises that lead to bailouts for plutocrats.

How to Combat Recession: Stimulus without Debt
By Laurence Seidman
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Recessions are a recurring phenomenon and there are repeated debates about how to combat them when the crisis hits and after the economy begins to grow again. Laurence Seidman argues that currently we are not ready to combat the next recession. A recession involves a plunge in aggregate demand for goods and services which compels producers to cut production and employment. Fortunately, a large boost in demand can be achieved by a large fiscal stimulus-primarily a temporary large increase in tax rebates for households plus several fiscal supplements. But fiscal stimulus has always involved a large increase in government debt, something Congress understandably resists. The assumption that a large fiscal stimulus requires an increase in government debt is false, Seidman asserts in this thought-provoking book. In fact, it is astonishingly easy to implement even a very large fiscal stimulus without any increase in government debt. All it takes is for Congress to enact a fiscal stimulus and the Federal Reserve to make a transfer (not loan) to the Treasury roughly equal to the fiscal stimulus so the Treasury doesn’t have to borrow.

The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward
By Stanley S. Litow
Essay by author via CNBC
My just-released book, “The Challenge for Business and Society: From Risk to Reward,” attempts to substitute facts for anger with a new understanding about the role corporations have played and could play in addressing today’s challenges. How many people realize the private sector established benefits such as paid vacations, free health care and retirement pensions long before government did?

Is Inequality in America Irreversible?
By Chuck Collins
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
We are living in a time of extreme inequality: America’s three richest people now own as much wealth as the bottom half of the population. Although most accept that this is grotesque, many politicians accept it as irreversible. In this book, leading US researcher and activist Chuck Collins succinctly diagnoses the drivers of rampant inequality, arguing that such disparities have their roots in 40 years of the powerful rigging the system in their favor. He proposes a far-reaching policy agenda, analyzes the barriers to progress, and shows how transformative local campaigns can become a national movement for change. This book is a powerful analysis of how the plutocracy sold us a toxic lie, and what we can do to reverse inequality.

Will Big Business Destroy Our Planet?
By Peter Dauvergne
Review via Brave New Europe
Transnational corporations, or TNCs, or just plain big business, are everywhere. They have an overwhelming influence and impact on our lives – and on the planet.
They boast they are a force for good – and are helping in the fight against climate change. But Peter Dauvergne, professor of international relations at the University of British Columbia in Canada, begs to differ.
“The earth’s climate is drifting into an ever-deeper crisis as the shadows of mass production, transportation and industrial agriculture continue to intensify”, says Dauvergne.

What Would the Great Economists Do?: How Twelve Brilliant Minds Would Solve Today’s Biggest Problems
By Linda Yueh
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Business schools across the land teach a set of canonical precepts: The free market is good and self-correcting, corporations have the sole duty of maximizing return for shareholders, and commerce is indifferent to larger matters of ethics. But are all those points true? Also, are they useful in addressing obdurate problems that seem custom-coined for our time, such as, in the face of economy-must-grow models, the future seems the province of low productivity and lower expansion? Enter BBC broadcaster and Oxford economist Yueh (China’s Growth: The Making of an Economic Superpower, 2013, etc.), who turns to Robert Solow, “the author of the workhorse of economic growth models,” for guidance. She also goes against Solow and on to the ground of endogenous growth theory but returns with a humane prescription: Just as Solow located growth in, among other things, how workers are treated, maybe we can learn to retool.

The Ethics of Giving: Philosophers’ Perspectives on Philanthropy
By Paul Woodruff
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
In giving to charity, should we strive to do the greatest good or promote a lesser good that we care more about? On such issues, ethical theory can have momentous practical effects. This volume is a unique collection of new papers on philanthropy from a range of philosophical perspectives. The authors are among the best-regarded philosophers writing on ethics today and include a number of thinkers who have not previously published on the subject. Most recently published work by philosophers on charitable giving tends to support what is called effective altruism-doing the most good you can.

Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together
By Andrew Selee
Review via Kirkus Reviews
No border wall can impede an inescapable fact: Mexico and the United States are inextricably joined to one another culturally, economically, and politically.
Most Americans, by Migration Policy Institute president Selee’s (What Should Think Tanks Do?: A Strategic Guide to Policy Impact, 2013, etc.) account, have positive views of Mexico, Mexicans, and indeed immigrants in general. Yet, even if immigration from Mexico, legal and otherwise, has dropped substantially since 2007, there are still a sizable number of gringos who fear the southerly other—and the farther from the border, all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue, the more the fear grows. The author examines economic, political, and cultural trends that might allay their worries.

Using R for Data Analysis in Social Sciences: A Research Project-Oriented Approach
By Quan Li
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Statistical analysis is common in the social sciences, and among the more popular programs is R. This book provides a foundation for undergraduate and graduate students in the social sciences on how to use R to manage, visualize, and analyze data. The focus is on how to address substantive questions with data analysis and replicate published findings.