Book Bits For Saturday: 12.3.2011

Cannibal Capitalism: How Big Business and The Feds Are Ruining America
By Michael C. Hill
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Unlike in most other recent instances of financial turbulence, when this crisis hit, the country turned on itself economically, with the powerhouses—corporations, business leaders, and government—throwing the everyman under the bus. In an effort to avoid becoming slightly less rich, the super-rich effectively cannibalized the true engines of growth in the economy, in the process putting the bottom ninety-nine percent of the population at serious risk of losing everything. Cannibal Capitalism fights back, arguing that to really recover we need to educate our children, invest in our small businesses, use our inflated money to develop real things that build real wealth, and get back to exporting in a big way.

Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy
By Bill Clinton
Q&A with author, former President Bill Clinton, via PBS Newshour
Judy Woodruff: So your book, “Back to Work,” is about jobs, it’s about how to get the economy going. Let me ask you about today’s numbers for the month of November — unemployment numbers. The picture is improving a little bit. What does the jobs scene look like to you?
Bill Clinton: Well, I think what you’re seeing is, the economy got way down with the double whammy of the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis, and the natural rhythms of the American economy, plus the benefit of the payroll tax cuts, which I do think helped a lot to maintain a certain level of consumer spending, a certain level of confidence. And small businesses have been saying for months, about 40 percent of them, they would have hired more people if they could get credit — and you just felt this building up. So I feel good about it.
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization As We Know It
By H.W. Brands
Review via Kirkus Reviews
In this succinct overview, two-time Pulitzer finalist Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age, 2011, etc.) traces the role of the dollar in shaping America’s rise to global preeminence. The author looks at historical benchmarks beginning with two signal events: the issuance of greenbacks as legal tender in 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The establishment of the Federal Reserve System 50 years later formalized the second pole in the pendulum swings of U.S. financial policy—between emphasis on a balanced budget and tight credit and the liquidity needed to support industrial growth and high employment, both of which are at the forefront of today’s political controversies. Following World War I, the increasingly important international role of the United States led to the establishment of the gold-backed dollar as a global currency, and its replacement by the greenback in 1971 when Richard Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold. Along with an overview of the past 150 years, Brands examines fascinating little-known sidelights… The author suggests that in the 21st century, American financial hegemony will be replaced, leaving America’s international role in the new post-dollar world an open question. A welcome, balanced look at this hotly debated issue, written with the author’s usual flair.
Realeconomik The Hidden Cause of the Great Recession (And How to Avert the Next One)
By Grigory Yavlinsky
Summary via publisher, Yale University Press
This book directly confronts uncomfortable questions that many prefer to brush aside: if economists and other scholars, politicians, and business professionals understand the causes of economic crises, as they claim, then why do such damaging crises continue to occur? Can we trust business and intellectual elites who advocate the principles of Realpolitik and claim the “public good” as their priority, yet consistently favor maximization of profit over ethical issues? Former deputy prime minister of Russia Grigory Yavlinsky, an internationally respected free-market economist, makes a powerful case that the often-cited causes of global economic instability—institutional failings, wrong decisions by regulators, insufficient or incorrect information, and the like—are only secondary to a far more significant underlying cause: the failure to understand that universal social norms are essential to thriving businesses and social and economic progress. Yavlinsky explores the widespread disregard for moral values in business decisions and calls for restoration of principled behavior in politics and economic practices. The unwelcome alternative, he warns, will be a twenty-first-century global economy in the grip of unending crises.
The End of Finance
By Massimo Amato and Luca Fantacci
Summary via publisher, Polity
This new book by two distinguished Italian economists is a highly original contribution to our understanding of the origins and aftermath of the financial crisis. The authors show that the recent financial crisis cannot be understood simply as a malfunctioning in the subprime mortgage market: rather, it is rooted in a much more fundamental transformation, taking place over an extended time period, in the very nature of finance.
After the Great Complacence: Financial Crisis and the Politics of Reform
Edited by Ewald Engelen, et al.
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
What is the relationship between the financial system and politics? In a democratic system, what kind of control should elected governments have over the financial markets? What policies should be implemented to regulate them? What is the role played by different elites–financial, technocratic, and political–in the operation and regulation of the financial system? And what role should citizens, investors, and savers play?… In the wake of the crisis, the authors argue that social scientists, governments, and citizens need to re-engage with the political dimensions of financial markets. This book offers a controversial and accessible exploration of the disorders of our financial capitalism and its justifications. With an innovative emphasis on the economically ‘undisclosed’ and the political ‘mystifying’, it combines technical understanding of finance, cultural analysis, and al political account of interests and institutions.
Global Energy Innovation Why America Must Lead
By Woodrow W. Clark II and Grant Cooke
Summary via publisher, Praeger
The world is entering the Third Industrial Revolution, an era of remarkable progress in science and technology that will require a global shift away from reliance on fossil-fuel and carbon-based energy. This book explains how America can lead the effort to reverse global warming and become the world leader in global energy innovation… The world’s oil supply and other cheap carbon-based fuels are dwindling; climate change and global warming constitute a growing environmental threat; obsolete energy sources, like nuclear, are often the cause of horrific disasters. When will America join the new industrial revolution that is already underway in Europe and Asia? Global Energy Innovation: Why America Must Lead explains why the emerging Third Industrial Revolution will become the largest social and economic megatrend of the post-modern era. With its comprehensive, up-to-date examination of renewable energy systems and related green technologies, this book represents a call-to-action that will benefit any reader, regardless of their status as a lay person, scholar, or scientist.