Book Bits For Saturday: 2.19.2011

The Great American Bank Robbery: The Unauthorized Report About What Really Caused the Great Recession
By Paul Sperry
Summary via publisher, Thomas Nelson Inc.
The average American household lost $123,000 in wealth during the financial crisis. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission says Wall Street stole it, appearing to confirm the narrative told by countless politicians, economists, and pundits. The verdict seems unanimous. In fact, it’s unanimously wrong. The masterminds behind the biggest heist in history were radical social engineers on Pennsylvania Avenue, not financial engineers on Wall Street. The Great American Bank Robbery offers the first careful and thorough analysis of public policy’s role in the calamity. With stinging clarity, it indicts the real culprits–many of whom have returned to the scene of the crime in Washington. Now they’re planning an even bigger heist in the name of “economic justice.”

The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters
By Diane Coyle
Summary via publisher, Princeton University Press
The world’s leading economies are facing not just one but many crises. The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted. At the same time, many people regret the consumerism and social corrosion of modern life. What these crises have in common, Diane Coyle argues, is a reckless disregard for the future–especially in the way the economy is run. How can we achieve the financial growth we need today without sacrificing a decent future for our children, our societies, and our planet? How can we realize what Coyle calls “the Economics of Enough”?
Running the economy for tomorrow as well as today will require a wide range of policy changes. The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources. Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption. Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.
The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World’s Oil Market
By Leah McGrath Goodman
Review via BusinessWeek
Anyone who accuses New York Mercantile Exchange (CME) traders of being greedy and lawless anarchists who blow up markets obviously was not working the floor in 1978. In that year a sign at the entrance decreed: Please check your guns at the desk. “A gunshot never went off on the floor,” claims John Tafaro, a trader at the time. “That’s where we drew the line.” He says traders were pretty dutiful about checking their guns, too. The rest of the rules, though, they ignored, skirted, or subverted, sometimes with brazen crudity, sometimes through deft manipulation of the law—at least according to Leah McGrath Goodman’s The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked the World’s Oil Market. “Any customer who traded there was molested, if not raped,” says one ex-regulator with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, speaking metaphorically, one hopes. “As far as we could see, the NYMEX traders did nothing but run scams.”
Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse
By Thomas Woods
Audio interview with author via Pundit Review
Last night I got to speak with Thomas Woods, author of Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse. The book goes far beyond repealing the monstrosity that is Obamacare, taking a close look across the entire government and the numerous ways Big Government is not just part of the problem, but the problem itself.
Energy Politics
By Brenda Shaffer
Summary via publisher, University of Pennsylvania Press
In Energy Politics, Brenda Shaffer argues that energy and politics are intrinsically linked. Modern life—from production of goods, to means of travel and entertainment, to methods of waging war—is heavily dependent on access to energy. A country’s ability to acquire and use energy supplies crucially determines the state of its economy, its national security, and the quality and sustainability of its environment. Energy supply can serve as a basis for regional cooperation, but at the same time can serve as a source of conflict among energy seekers and between producers and consumers.
Shaffer provides a broad introduction to the ways in which energy affects domestic and regional political developments and foreign policy. While previous scholarship has focused primarily on the politics surrounding oil, Shaffer broadens her scope to include the increasingly important role of natural gas and alternative energy sources as well as emerging concerns such as climate change, the global energy divide, and the coordinated international policy making required to combat them. Energy Politics concludes with examinations of how politics and energy interact in six of the world’s largest producers and consumers of energy: Russia, Europe, the United States, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
The False Promise of Green Energy
By Andrew P. Morriss, William T. Bogart, Roger E. Meiners, Andrew D. Dorchak
Summary via publisher, Cato Institute
Green energy promises an alluring future—more jobs in a cleaner environment. We will enjoy a new economy driven by clean electricity, less pollution, and, of course, the gratitude of generations to come. There’s just one problem: the lack of credible evidence that any of that can occur.
The False Promise of Green Energy critically and realistically evaluates the claims of green-energy and green-jobs proponents who argue that we can improve the economy and the environment, almost risk-free, by spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars in return for false or highly speculative promises. The book examines the claims green-energy proponents make, including assertions of how green energy will revitalize the job market, produce new forms of clean transportation, and improve environmental health and safety, energy efficiency, and more. The authors explore the underlying politics and gamesmanship lurking below the surface.