Book Bits For Saturday: 3.3.2012

The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery
By Noam Scheiber
Review via Slate
The moment when the economy seems to be turning around is perhaps not the best time to publish a book explaining why it took so long to get things right. Still, with his new book, The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, Noam Scheiber offers a persuasive take on administration policymaking, one in which there are no heroes and no villains, no fools, no saints, not even a clear road not taken. It’s a portrait of a team that failed in its responsibility to the country to avoid a prolonged and cataclysmic downturn, but did so under extremely trying circumstances—and still, arguably, produced the best possible result.

In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy
By Olivier J. Blanchard, David Romer, A. Michael Spence and Joseph E. Stiglitz
Summary via publisher, MIT Press
In 2011, the International Monetary Fund invited prominent economists and economic policy makers to consider the brave new world of the post-crisis global economy. The result is a book that captures the state of macroeconomic thinking at a transformational moment. The crisis and the weak recovery that has followed raise fundamental questions concerning macroeconomics and economic policy. For instance, to what extent are financial markets efficient and self-correcting? How crucial is low and stable inflation for growth and the real stability of the economy? How strong is the case for open capital markets? Too often, the standard models provided insufficient guidance on how to respond to the unprecedented situations created by the crisis. As a result, policy makers have been forced to improvise. What to do when interest rates reach the zero floor? How best to provide liquidity to segmented financial institutions and markets? How much to use fiscal policy starting from high levels of debt? These top economists discuss future directions for monetary policy, fiscal policy, financial regulation, capital account management, growth strategies, and the international monetary system, and the economic models that should underpin thinking about critical policy choices.
Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future
By Grover G. Norquist and John R. Lott Jr.
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Have President Obama’s economic policies really improved the lives of Americans? Or has his stimulus package proved to be a disaster? In Debacle: Obama’s War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future , Grover G. Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, and economist John R. Lott, Jr. explain why the stimulus package has not only failed to improve the economy but, worse, has also harmed the lives of everyday working-class Americans. They offer a 12-step plan to rescue America from the Obama administration’s policies and return her to prosperity. The authors assert that President Obama delivered the largest spending increases and the largest deficits in American history. Americans are no better for it. They have endured the worst economic recovery since the aftermath of the Great Depression. Incomes for the median household are falling. Poverty is rising by record amounts. Unemployment and job growth have been abysmal. Big government is punishing those who work hard and innovate and ultimately create jobs and wealth—the two key factors needed for economic recovery.
The Coming Prosperity: How Entrepreneurs Are Transforming the Global Economy
By Philip E. Auerswald
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
Ours is the most dynamic era in human history. The benefits of four centuries of technological and organizational change are at last reaching a previously excluded global majority. This transformation will create large-scale opportunities in richer countries like the United States just as it has in poorer countries now in the ascent. In The Coming Prosperity, Philip E. Auerswald argues that it is time to overcome the outdated narratives of fear that dominate public discourse and to grasp the powerful momentum of progress. Acknowledging the gravity of today’s greatest global challenges-like climate change, water scarcity, and rapid urbanization-Auerswald emphasizes that the choices we make today will determine the extent and reach of the coming prosperity. To make the most of this epochal transition, he writes, the key is entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs introduce new products and services, expand the range of global knowledge networks, and, most importantly, challenge established business interests, maintaining the vitality of mature capitalist economies and enhancing the viability of emerging ones. Auerswald frames narratives of inspiring entrepreneurs within the sweep of human history.
Becoming China’s Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now
By Peter D. Kiernan
Summary via publisher, Turner
When it comes to solving our country’s problems, we have become utterly paralyzed: bipartisanship has lulled us into a deadlock, preventing us from taking action. Yet we can no longer ignore the inevitable catastrophes or hand them off to Washington to fix—they must be addressed now, or we will suffer the long-term consequences. In Becoming China’s Bitch, Peter Kiernan presents an unflinching manifesto in which he explores five factors that have sustained our national paralysis, then uncovers the ten challenges that pose the greatest threat to the future of America. Presented from a fresh yet informative Centrist perspective, these ten impending catastrophes include our semiconscious dependency on China, our lack of a centrally coordinated intelligence effort, our downward-spiraling health-care system, and the continually expanding problem of illegal immigration. In a logical, personal, and persuasive voice, Kiernan offers radical yet common-sense solutions to these challenges—solutions that every American must acknowledge and act upon before it’s too late. With provocative insight and analytical depth, Becoming China’s Bitch is the answer to securing our country’s immediate future and restoring our national soul.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
Review via The Daily Beast
If you punch “self-help” into Amazon, you’ll get something like 294,000 results. We are a people profoundly concerned with improving our weight or athletic performance or sex lives, always looking for easy fixes, for effortless ways to change our most ingrained habits. Much of what is offered is pseudoscientific at best, of course, but that hasn’t stopped an ever-growing army of charlatans from extracting millions from those of us who are desperate to improve ourselves. In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg brings a heaping, much-needed dose of social science and psychology to the subject, explaining the promise and perils of habits via an entertaining ride that touches on everything from marketing to management studies to the civil-rights movement.