Book Bits For Saturday: 9.24.2011

The The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World
By Jeremy Rifkin
Review via Bloomberg
The world economy will face shocks and depressions, punctuated by ever-shorter and weaker recoveries, as long as it relies on outdated fossil fuels, says Jeremy Rifkin, author of “The Third Industrial Revolution.” “There will be cycles of growth, collapse, growth, collapse, every three years or so,” he said in an interview in Berlin, where he was scheduled to speak on a panel about sustainable growth introduced by Chancellor Angela Merkel. We are on the cusp of a major upheaval as the world switches to renewable energies and our power-distribution networks undergo a transition similar to that experienced by communications systems with the advent of the Internet, he said. Until the “third industrial revolution” is in full swing, debt crises such as those plaguing the euro area will recur, Rifkin said.

A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future
By Jennifer Granholm
Summary via publisher, Public Affairs Books
A candid account by Michigan’s charismatic, controversial former governor of reckoning with the profound economic challenges her state—and the country—face. Jennifer Granholm was the two-term governor of Michigan, a state synonymous with manufacturing during a financial crisis that threatened to put all America’s major car companies into bankruptcy. The immediate and knock-on effects were catastrophic. Granholm’s grand plans for education reform, economic revitalization, clean energy, and infrastructure development were blitzed by a perfect economic storm.
The Greatest Trades of All Time: Top Traders Making Big Profits from the Crash of 1929 to Today
By Vincent Veneziani
Summary via publisher, Wiley
Financial and commodity markets are characterized by periodic crashes and upside explosions. In retrospect, the reasons behind these abrupt movements often seem very clear, but generally few people understand what’s happening at the time. Top traders and investors like George Soros or Jesse Livermore have stood apart from the crowd and capitalized on their unique insights to capture huge profits. Engaging and informative, The Greatest Trades of All Time chronicles how a select few traders anticipated market eruptions from the 1929 stock market crash to the 2008 subprime mortgage meltdown and positioned themselves to excel while a majority of others failed. Along the way, author Vincent Veneziani describes the economic and financial forces that led to each market cataclysm and how these individuals perceived what was happening beforehand and why they decided to place big bets, often at great risk and in opposition to consensus opinion at the time.
But Will the Planet Notice?: How Smart Economics Can Save the World
By Gernot Wagner
Review via Publishers Weekly
You can replace all your light bulbs, bike to work, and OD on sustainably produced, locally sourced tofu, but much as you may try to minimize your environmental footprint, individual actions are largely useless. It will take a critical mass of people changing their behaviors to make real change, says economist Wagner, who argues for economic solutions to environmental crises. He challenges readers to consider how to corral the masses; what if the pope, for instance, advised the world’s Catholics to reduce their personal carbon emissions? Papal edict aside, most significant change can only come from simple economic legislation–Ireland’s 2002 PlasTax, for instance, which reduced the demand for landfill-clogging plastic bags by 90%. Applying economics at both the macro level (making dirty energy more expensive to maintain) and the micro (increasing the cost of filling your car with gas) can help us create a greener world in a larger, more substantive way. Wagner’s wry, witty prose brings rationality to an emotionally charged subject and urges us to take personal responsibility for the planet by demanding an economically sound solution to guiding market forces in the right direction, making it in our best interests to do the right thing.
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution
By Mary Gabriel
Review via The Wall Street Journal
In an era when Karl Marx’s work appears increasingly consigned to the ash heap of history, the shrewdness of undertaking a lengthy new study of Marx is not immediately obvious. Yet in “Love and Capital,” journalist Mary Gabriel provides a fresh approach to this oft-examined topic, planting Marx, the great socio-political philosopher, firmly within the context of Marx, the paterfamilias of a group whose presiding focus was the nurturing of his intellectual life.
A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia
By Aaron L. Friedberg
Review via Foreign Policy
Like tossing a dead skunk into a garden party, A Contest for Supremacy aims to shake things up among the foreign-policy elite inside the United States. Friedberg presents all of the arguments employed in favor of optimism and complacency regarding the trends facing the United States in East Asia then systemically shoots them down. His book is the most thorough wake-up call yet regarding the security challenges presented by China’s rise. It is also a plea to have an honest conversation about the difficult questions facing the United States in Asia.
Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance
By Arvind Subramanian
Review via Center For Global Development
Chinese rapid ascendancy is not a new story. Arvind takes a fresh look, devising an index of economic dominance that includes GDP, trade, and creditor-debtor status, and showing how these three factors have historically determined which countries are in a position to call the shots in global affairs. According to his calculations, the United States is a lot closer to falling behind than most people think. He describes the competition for global dominance as China’s to lose, rather than America’s. Even if the United States recovers soon from its current economic and political maladies, China’s huge population and rapid, sustained growth mean it will surpass the United States in all three measures of economic power by 2030—even assuming a substantial slowing of China’s blistering growth rate.