Book Bits For Saturday: 7.30.2011

Saving Capitalism From Short-Termism: How to Build Long-Term Value and Take Back Our Financial Future
By Alfred Rappaport
Summary via publisher, McGraw-Hill
Business leaders today obsess over quarterly earnings and the current stock price—and for good reason. Corporate incentives typically focus on short-term profits rather than long-term value creation. Nothing is more harmful to businesses—and to the broader economy. Few business thinkers in recent decades have contributed more to this subject than Alfred Rappaport. As an author and educator, Rappaport is a pioneer in developing the principles of values-based management and is an acknowledged authority on how to make long-term shareholder value the essential driver of corporate strategy. His latest work, Saving Capitalism from Short-Termism, is a clarion call for conquering the addiction to short-term profit—and getting on the path to building long-term value.

Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster
By James Grant
Review via The New York Times Book Review
James Grant would not immediately leap out as the logical choice to write a biography of Tom Reed [the late-19th century Speaker of the House]. He is best known as a financial analyst, the editor of the respected Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. But he is also an accomplished biographer, having previously taken on Bernard Baruch and John Adams. I suspect Grant was drawn to Reed in part because his era was rife with pitched battles over monetary policy. The question of whether gold, silver, both metals or none would back up Civil War greenbacks dominated much of the political debate, especially during presidential campaigns. And Grant writes about these issues at great length.
The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class
By Guy Standing
Essay by the author
For the first time in history, the mainstream left has no progressive agenda. It has forgotten a basic principle. Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat. So far, the precariat in Europe has been mostly engaged in EuroMayDay parades and loosely organised protests. But this is changing rapidly, as events in Spain and Greece are showing, following on the precariat-led uprisings in the middle-east. Remember that welfare states were built only when the working class mobilised through collective action to demand the relevant policies and institutions. The precariat is busy defining its demands. The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions.
Understanding China’s Economic Indicators: Translating the Data into Investment Opportunities
By Thomas Orlik
Summary via publisher, FT Press
Understanding China’s Economic Indicators is the only guide to what China’s statistics say about the state of the economy and how to use them to make more profitable investment decisions. Leading China market analyst Tom Orlik introduces China’s 35 most important indicators, explaining why they matter and what they mean, identifying the distortions in the data, and spelling out the impact on equity, commodity, and currency markets.
Thrift and Thriving in America: Capitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present
Edited by Joshua Yates and James Davison Hunter
Summary via publisher, Oxford University Press
Thrift is a powerful and evolving moral ideal, disposition, and practice that has indelibly marked the character of American life since its earliest days. Its surprisingly multifaceted character opens a number of expansive vistas for analysis, not only in the American past, but also in its present. Thrift remains, if perhaps in unexpected and counter-intuitive ways, intensely relevant to the complex issues of contemporary moral and economic life. Thrift and Thriving in America is a collection of groundbreaking essays from leading scholars on the seminal importance of thrift to American culture and history. From a rich diversity of disciplinary perspectives, the volume shows that far from the narrow and attenuated rendering of thrift as a synonym of saving and scrimping, thrift possess an astonishing capaciousness and dynamism, and that the idiom of thrift has, in one form or another, served as the primary language for articulating the normative dimensions of economic life throughout much of American history. The essays put thrift in a more expansive light, revealing its compelling etymology-its sense of “thriving.” This deeper meaning has always operated as the subtext of thrift and at times has even been invoked to critique its more restricted notions. So understood, thrift moves beyond the instrumentalities of “more or less” and begs the question: what does it mean and take to thrive?