Book Bits For Saturday: 5.21.2011

Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon
By Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner
Summary via publisher, Times Books
In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times, exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally blew up the American economy. Drawing on previously untapped sources and building on original research from coauthor Joshua Rosner—who himself raised early warnings with the public and investors, and kept detailed records—Morgenson connects the dots that led to this fiasco. Morgenson and Rosner draw back the curtain on Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance giant that grew, with the support of the Clinton administration, through the 1990s, becoming a major opponent of government oversight even as it was benefiting from public subsidies. They expose the role played not only by Fannie Mae executives but also by enablers at Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, HUD, Congress, the FDIC, and the biggest players on Wall Street, to show how greed, aggression, and fear led countless officials to ignore warning signs of an imminent disaster.

What Would Ben Graham Do Now?: A New Value Investing Playbook for a Global Age
By Jeffrey Towson
Excerpt via publisher, FT Press
With Graham’s value approach as their weapon, generations of investors have laid siege to confusing and seemingly chaotic markets. And slowly and grudgingly, previously inscrutable markets and systems have become both understandable and actionable. Graham’s approach has proved to not only be exceedingly profitable but also fascinating. The opportunity to understand the business world as it really exists, outside of our limited perceptions, is as satisfying as the returns. Graham’s thinking offers what physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman called “the pleasure of finding things out.” Unsurprisingly, value investing tends to attract both the ambitious and Feynman-type “curious characters.”
This book started with a similar emotional reaction. Almost a gut feeling—that at the start of the first global century, confusion and anxiety seem to be growing. I am increasingly struck by the sense of gloom and doom Westerners in particular have about globalization and a changing world. The U.S. is in decline? Globalization will move my job overseas? The global financial system is precariously unstable and will inevitably collapse? The future is one of belt tightening and lowered ambitions? China’s rise fundamentally threatens the West? (How many ways can the word dragon be used in a book title?)
Death by China: Confronting the Dragon – A Global Call to Action
By Peter W. Navarro and Greg Autry
Summary via publisher, FT Press
China is now the #1 danger facing America. Best-selling author and economist Peter Navarro and coauthor Greg Autry expose every form of “death by China”–from lethal products to espionage, imperialism, and nuclear proliferation, through China’s relentless attack on the U.S. economy. A must-read book for every American, by the best-selling author of The Coming China Wars.
The Contemporary Global Economy: A History since 1980
By Alfred E. Eckes Jr.
Summary via publisher, Wiley-Blackwell
The Contemporary Global Economy provides a lively overview of recent turbulence in the world economy, focusing on the dynamics of globalization since the 1980s. It explains the main drivers of economic change and how we are able to discern their effects in the world today.
Business as Usual: The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism
By Paul Mattick
Summary via publisher, Reaktion Books
In Business as Usual Paul Mattick explains the recession in jargon-free style, without shying away from serious analysis. He explores current events in relation to the development of the world economy since the Second World War and, more fundamentally, looks at the cycle of crisis and recovery that has characterized capitalism since the early nineteenth century. Mattick situates today’s crisis in the context of a capitalism ruled by a voracious quest for profit. He places the downturn within the context of business cycles and uses this explanation as a springboard for exploring the nature of our capitalist society, and its prospects for the future.