Book Bits For Saturday: 3.17.2012

The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources
By Michael T. Klare
Interview with author via Democracy Now!
We look at rising fuel costs, one of the major issues raised by the Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential campaign. Since the beginning of the year, the average of price of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped 16 percent to more than $3.80. Earlier this week, President Obama partially blamed his Republican rivals, saying one reason for the increase is rumors of war with Iran. Meanwhile, Republican candidates have used the spike in gas prices to attack President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and his stance on expanded domestic oil drilling. Our guest, Michael Klare, says oil prices are destined to remain high for a long time to come because most of the remaining oil on the planet is no longer easily accessible.

Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government–and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead
By David Rothkopf
Lecture/panel discussion with author via the Carnegie Endowment
Foreign Policy magazine and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted the launch of David Rothkopf’s newest book, Power, Inc. The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government—and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead. Rothkopf presented his book, which traces the changing relationship between public and private power and looks at the implications of the rise of great private actors and the weakening of many states. A panel discussion followed with Robert Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment; and Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Quest and The Commanding Heights. Ed Luce, Washington columnist and commentator for the Financial Times, moderated.
Finance and the Good Society
By Robert Shiller
Summary via publisher, Princeton University Press
The reputation of the financial industry could hardly be worse than it is today in the painful aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. New York Times best-selling economist Robert Shiller is no apologist for the sins of finance–he is probably the only person to have predicted both the stock market bubble of 2000 and the real estate bubble that led up to the subprime mortgage meltdown. But in this important and timely book, Shiller argues that, rather than condemning finance, we need to reclaim it for the common good. He makes a powerful case for recognizing that finance, far from being a parasite on society, is one of the most powerful tools we have for solving our common problems and increasing the general well-being. We need more financial innovation–not less–and finance should play a larger role in helping society achieve its goals.
Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America’s Free Economy
By Charles Goyette
Summary via publisher, Sentinel/Penguin
Goyette explains how the growth of federal power and its costly warfare and welfare spending are bankrupting America and strangling our prosperity. The incredible $1.2 trillion a year we spend on state security is leading us straight down the road to ruinous debt. Transfer payments and social spending are equally unsustainable financial time bombs. The time has come to release the stranglehold of excessive government spending and ineffective over-regulation and let the free economy function as it was originally intended. Career politicians continue to pointlessly argue without enacting real and effective change. No wonder a feeling of disenfranchisement is growing. Their destructive agenda needs to be exposed and stopped before it does us any more harm.
America in Decline
By Mike Sharpe
Summary via publisher, M.E. Sharpe
By Mike Sharpe
This collection gathers ninety-one essays written by Mike Sharpe that appeared in Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs from 1973 through 2011. They deal with virtually every aspect of the U.S. and international economies. The title reflects the fact that income and wealth inequalities in the U.S. have increased to disastrous levels not seen since the 1920s. The wealthy have recaptured the power to make the rules almost unilaterally. The author also examines the decline of Europe and Russia, the problematic rise of China, and the enigmatic portent of the Arab Spring. The book begins with the stagflation of the 1970s and ends with the bust of the 2000s, clinching the case, in the author’s opinion, that America has been in decline for more than three decades. The tide can be reversed if and when we are ready to use fact-based economic policies.
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
By Jon Gertner
Article by author via The New York Times
“Innovation is what America has always been about,” President Obama remarked in his recent State of the Union address. It’s hard to disagree, isn’t it? We live in a world dominated by innovative American companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. And even in the face of a recession, Silicon Valley’s relentless entrepreneurs have continued to churn out start-up companies with outsize, world-changing ambitions. But we idealize America’s present culture of innovation too much. In fact, our trailblazing digital firms may not be the hothouse environments for creativity we might think. I find myself arriving at these doubts after spending five years looking at the innovative process at Bell Labs, the onetime research and development organization of the country’s formerly monopolistic telephone company, AT&T. Why study Bell Labs? It offers a number of lessons about how our country’s technology companies — and our country’s longstanding innovative edge — actually came about.