Book Bits For Saturday: 11.12.2011

The End of the Euro: The Uneasy Future of the European Union
By Johan Van Overtveldt
Summary via publisher, Agate B2
Van Overtveldt makes a convincing case that the end-scenario of Germany’s retraction from the euro and a general dissolution of the entire European monetary union, is more likely than a solution in which EU policymakers develop a plan that would preclude the death of the euro. The implications for the future of the world economy—and theeconomies of different countries across Europe—are dramatic.

Capitalist Revolutionary: John Maynard Keynes
By Roger E. Backhouse and Bradley W. Bateman
Review via The Deal
This is not a technical economic tract; this is a book for someone who wants to understand how Keynes’ ideas and habits of thought fit together (it includes a useful bibliographic essay to the Keynes industry at the end). While it deals with the broad outline of Keynes’ economic ideas, particularly in the ’30s when he published his masterpiece, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” it also tackles the philosophical contexts that shaped his thinking and what the authors call “Keynes’ ambiguous revolution,” that is, how those ideas were revised and reshaped after World War II into a kind of orthodoxy, then rejected in the stagflation ’70s, then embraced, debated and reinterpreted up to our own deeply confusing era. This is extremely useful, particularly in an age where we are once again hearing from movements like Occupy Wall Street that capitalism needs to be renovated or eliminated, or when, in a time of often-vicious partisanship, Keynes and Keynesianism is tossed around as a term of blackest opprobrium or unassailable wisdom.
Exile on Wall Street: One Analyst’s Fight to Save the Big Banks from Themselves
By Mike Mayo
Excerpt via The Wall Street Journal
Over the years, I have pointed out certain problems in the banking sector—things like excessive risk, outsized compensation for bankers, more aggressive lending—and as a result been yelled at, conspicuously ignored, threatened with legal action and mocked by banking executives, all with the intent of persuading me to soften my stance.
Looking inside the world of finance—with its pressures to conform and stay quiet—may offer some insight into why so many others have fudged. And it may offer some answers as to how crisis after crisis has hit the economy over the past decade, taking the markets by surprise, despite what should have been plentiful warning signs.
The Economics of the Financial Crisis: Lessons and New Threats (Finance and Capital Markets)
By Marco Annunziata
Summary via publisher, Palgrave Macmillan
Through the tools of economics, Annunziata’s vivid and gripping book shows how the global financial crisis was caused by a failure of leadership and common sense in which we all played a role. The insights of this clear and compelling analysis are essential for learning the right lessons from the crisis, and seeing new threats around the corner.
Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis
By James Rickards
Summary via publisher, Penguin/Portfolio
Currency wars have happened before–twice in the last century alone–and they always end badly. Time and again, paper currencies have collapsed, assets have been frozen, gold has been confiscated, and capital controls have been imposed. And the next crash is overdue. Recent headlines about the debasement of the dollar, bailouts in Greece and Ireland, and Chinese currency manipulation are all indicators of the growing conflict. As James Rickards argues in Currency Wars, this is more than just a concern for economists and investors. The United States is facing serious threats to its national security, from clandestine gold purchases by China to the hidden agendas of sovereign wealth funds. Greater than any single threat is the very real danger of the collapse of the dollar itself.