Book Bits For Saturday: 3.5.2011

Endgame: The End of the Debt SuperCycle and How It Changes Everything
Excerpt via publisher, John Wiley
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in the fall of 2008 drew the curtain on a very long 60-year Act I in the debt supercycle. You could feel in the air the end of a golden period, when everincreasing quantities of debt could lead to ever more consumption and “wealth.” As stock markets crashed globally and the lines of unemployed lengthened, the end of the era was something we could observe in real time.

The Evil Axis of Finance: The US-Japan-China Stranglehold on the Global Future
By Richard Westra
Summay via publisher, Clarity Press
In a nutshell, the rigged global game undergirding Axis power is that of dollar seigniorage. The way it works is that the US furnishes international money for the cost of running a printing press while the rest of the world produces goods and services in a wage race to the bottom to access those dollars. And select states, predominately Japan and China (though others as well), then store the surpluses they amass in dollar denominated savings. US access to investment capital through little substantive economic effort, as it in fact incurs exponentially burgeoning debt, underpinned its seemingly out-of-this-world economic performance across the 1990s and early 21st century. China’s export bonanza to the US props up its brutal authoritarian regime: The latter, in turn,finding further support from the powerful new coastal exporting elite. China’s slave-like labor conditions set wage rates for global producers and maintain a flow of consumer goods to the US and the world at deflated prices. With the rising export prowess of China Japan maintains demand for its capital goods beyond East and Southeast Asia which the US had supported as Japan’s “sphere of influence” in the post-World War II (WWII) era. Japanese corporations are thereby enabled to retain their core competencies bucking global trends while Japan further defies global tendencies toward spiraling unemployment to sustain its post-WWII social and political consensus.The book deftly explores the set of momentous though largely unrecognized consequences for the global future which flow from this rigged game:
Inside the Fed, Revised Edition: Monetary Policy and Its Management, Martin through Greenspan to Bernanke
By Stephen Axilrod
Summary via publisher, MIT Press
Stephen Axilrod is the ultimate Federal Reserve insider. He worked at the Fed’s Board of Governors for more than thirty years and after that in private markets and as a consultant on monetary policy.With Inside the Fed, he offers his unique perspective on the inner workings of the Federal Reserve System during the last fifty years—writing about personalities as much as policy—based on his knowledge and observations of every Fed chairman since 1951. This new, post-financial meltdown edition offers his assessment of the Fed’s action (and inaction) during the crisis and expanded coverage of the Fed in the Bernanke era.
In this revised edition, Axilrod gives an account of the Fed’s dramatic, even mind-bending, experiences in the great credit crisis of 2007-2009. He assesses the full range of the Fed’s unusual and innovative actions during the crisis and the beginnings of its aftermath. He questions whether the Fed used its monetary and regulatory powers to full effect to minimize and contain the disruption of the nation’s—and the world’s—financial stability. And, in an entirely new chapter, he evaluates Bernanke’s performance through his full first term (as well as the early part of his second) in light of his actions during the crisis. In later chapters he also reevaluates the image, stature, and structure of the Fed in the aftermath of the crisis and the new comprehensive financial legislation subsequently enacted.
The New Global Rulers: The Privatization of Regulation in the World Economy
By Tim Büthe & Walter Mattli
Summary via publisher, Princeton University Press
Over the past two decades, governments have delegated extensive regulatory authority to international private-sector organizations. This internationalization and privatization of rule making has been motivated not only by the economic benefits of common rules for global markets, but also by the realization that government regulators often lack the expertise and resources to deal with increasingly complex and urgent regulatory tasks. The New Global Rulers examines who writes the rules in international private organizations, as well as who wins, who loses–and why.
Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier
By Edward Glaeser
Review via The New York Times
Glaeser’s essential contention is that “cities magnify humanity’s strengths.” They spur innovation by facilitating face-to-face interaction, they attract talent and sharpen it through competition, they encourage entrepreneurship, and they allow for social and economic mobility. Glaeser takes us on a world tour of urban economics, collecting passport stamps in Athens, London, Tokyo, Bangalore, Kinshasa, Houston, Boston, Singapore and Vancouver. Along the way, he explains how urban density contributed to the birth of restaurants, why supermarket check-out clerks demonstrate the competitive advantage such density confers and how the birth of Def Jam Records illustrates the way cities spur artistic innovation. Here, his enthusiasm for cities is refreshing. Glaeser’s got some tough words for poorly reasoned public policies that feed suburban living: federal highway programs, the mortgage tax deduction, low gas prices. While he understands the lure of big houses and lush lawns, he’s against subsidizing them. And he chastises city planners in Paris and Mumbai, making a passionate argument for building up — and up and up.