Books

Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change

Edmund Phelps
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In this book, Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps draws on a lifetime of thinking to make a sweeping new argument about what makes nations prosper--and why the sources of that prosperity are under threat today. Why did prosperity explode in some nations between the 1820s and 1960s, creating not just unprecedented material wealth but "flourishing"--meaningful work, self-expression, and personal growth for more people than ever before? Phelps makes the case that the wellspring of this flourishing was modern values such as the desire to create, explore, and meet challenges. These values fueled the grassroots dynamism that was necessary for widespread, indigenous innovation. Most innovation wasn't driven by a few isolated visionaries like Henry Ford; rather, it was driven by millions of people empowered to think of, develop, and market innumerable new products and processes, and improvements to existing ones. Mass flourishing--a combination of material well-being and the "good life" in a broader sense--was created by this mass innovation.

Yet indigenous innovation and flourishing weakened decades ago. In America, evidence indicates that innovation and job satisfaction have decreased since the late 1960s, while postwar Europe has never recaptured its former dynamism. The reason, Phelps argues, is that the modern values underlying the modern economy are under threat by a resurgence of traditional, corporatist values that put the community and state over the individual. The ultimate fate of modern values is now the most pressing question for the West: will Western nations recommit themselves to modernity, grassroots dynamism, indigenous innovation, and widespread personal fulfillment, or will we go on with a narrowed innovation that limits flourishing to a few?

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Rethinking Expectations: The Way Forward for Macroeconomics

Roman Frydman & Edmund S. Phelps (Editors)
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This book originated from a 2010 conference marking the fortieth anniversary of the publication of the landmark "Phelps volume," Microeconomic Foundations of Employment and Inflation Theory, a book that is often credited with pioneering the currently dominant approach to macroeconomic analysis. However, in their provocative introductory essay, Roman Frydman and Edmund Phelps argue that the vast majority of macroeconomic and finance models developed over the last four decades derailed, rather than built on, the Phelps volume's "microfoundations" approach. Whereas the contributors to the 1970 volume recognized the fundamental importance of according market participants' expectations an autonomous role, contemporary models rely on the rational expectations hypothesis (REH), which rules out such a role by design.

The financial crisis that began in 2007, preceded by a spectacular boom and bust in asset prices that REH models implied could never happen, has spurred a quest for fresh approaches to macroeconomic analysis. While the alternatives to REH presented in Rethinking Expectations differ from the approach taken in the original Phelps volume, they are notable for returning to its major theme: understanding aggregate outcomes requires according expectations an autonomous role. In the introductory essay, Frydman and Phelps interpret the various efforts to reconstruct the field--some of which promise to chart its direction for decades to come.

The contributors include Philippe Aghion, Sheila Dow, George W. Evans, Roger E. A. Farmer, Roman Frydman, Michael D. Goldberg, Roger Guesnerie, Seppo Honkapohja, Katarina Juselius, Enisse Kharroubi, Blake LeBaron, Edmund S. Phelps, John B. Taylor, Michael Woodford, and Gylfi Zoega.

Foundations for New Economic Thinking: A Collection of Essays

Sheila C. Dow
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New economic thinking is in demand in the light of the recent crisis. But it is constrained by the prevailing way of thinking about the economy and about economics. This book equips the reader with a better understanding of this way of thinking and increases awareness of other possibilities. This selection of essays provides the foundations for debate at the levels of methodology and mode of thought; not only does awareness at these levels increase mutual understanding, making debate more constructive and increasing the possibilities for creative new developments, but it also puts the onus on economists to communicate and defend their own approach. This collection builds up these foundations and addresses particular issues, such as differences in meaning of key concepts. These issues have important practical implications for theory and policy. (Palgrave Macmillan)

 

Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (6th Revised edition)

Robert Aliber, Charles Kindleberger
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Manias, Panics and Crashes, is a scholarly and entertaining account of the way that mismanagement of money and credit has led to financial explosions over the centuries. Covering such topics as the history and anatomy of crises, speculative manias, and the lender of last resort, this book has been hailed as 'a true classic...both timely and timeless.' In this new, updated fifth edition, Kindleberger and Aliber expand upon the ideas presented in the previous edition, and include two new chapters on the real estate price bubble that occurred in Norway, Sweden and Finland at the end of the 1980s, and the three asset price bubbles that occurred between 1985 and 2000 in Japan and other Asian countries. Selected as one of the best investment books of all time by the Financial Times, Manias, Panics and Crashes puts the turbulence of the financial world in perspective. (Palgrave Macmillan)

Perspectives on the Performance of the Continental Economies

Edmund S. Phelps & Hans-Werner Sinn (Editors)
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Economists disagree on what ails the economies of continental western Europe, which are widely perceived to be underperforming in terms of productivity and other metrics. Is it some deficiency in their economic system—in economic institutions or cultural attitudes? Is it some effect of their welfare systems of social insurance and assistance? Or are these systems healthy enough but weighed down by adverse market conditions? In this volume, leading economists test the various explanations for Europe’s economic underperformance against real-world data.

The chapters, written from widely varying perspectives, demonstrate the shortcomings and strengths of some methods of economics as much as they do the shortcomings and strengths of some economies of western continental Europe. Some contributors address only income per head or per worker; others look at efficiency and distortions of national choices such as that between labor and leisure; still others look at job satisfaction, fulfillment, and rates of indigenous innovation. Many offer policy recommendations, which range from developing institutions that promote entrepreneurship to using early education to increase human capital.

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Beyond Mechanical Markets: Asset Price Swings, Risk, and the Role of the State

Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg
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In the wake of the global financial crisis that began in 2007, faith in the rationality of markets has lost ground to a new faith in their irrationality. The problem, Roman Frydman and Michael Goldberg argue, is that both the rational and behavioral theories of the market rest on the same fatal assumption--that markets act mechanically and economic change is fully predictable. In Beyond Mechanical Markets, Frydman and Goldberg show how the failure to abandon this assumption hinders our understanding of how markets work, why price swings help allocate capital to worthy companies, and what role government can and can't play. (Princeton University Press)

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A Call for Judgment

Amar Bhidé
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A Call for Judgment clearly explains how bad theories and mis-regulation have caused a dangerous divergence between the real economy and finance. In simple language Bhide takes apart the so-called advances in modern finance, showing how backward-looking, top-down models were used to mass-produce toxic products. Thanks to excessively tight securities laws and loose banking laws, anonymous transactions have displaced relationship-based finance. And Bhide offers, tough simple rules for restoring relationships and case-by-case judgment: limit banks-and all deposit taking institutions-to basic lending and nothing else.

A Call for Judgment is both a primer on the role of finance in a dynamic modern economy, and a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of banks functioning as highly centralized, mechanistic entities. It is essential reading for anyone interested in bringing the economy back to a point at which decisions can be made that foster organic economic growth without the potentially disastrous risks currently accepted by modern finance. (Oxford University Press)

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My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

Harold Evans
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In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of his newspapering and publishing odyssey, which took him from Manchester to London and finally to America.  In England, he would become the editor of two of the most famous newspapers in the world, the Sunday Times and The Times of London; crack England’s biggest spy scandal; expose the cause of the world’s worst air crash of its time, involving the DC-10; and uncover one of the greatest health scandals of the century.  Then it would be on to New York, where he would begin all over again as a book publisher, acquiring the memoirs of Colin Powell, Marlon Brando, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon – and the unknown Barack Obama.

Creating a tremendously vivid sense of what once was – the hot metal type, the smell of the presses, the heroes who gave their lives to write a final paragraph from a foreign battlefield – My Paper Chase is not just a glorious remembrance of an amazing life, but a poignant reminder of all that newspapers have been, and all that they can be again. (Little, Brown, and Company)

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The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies

Bruce Greenwald
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Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone are so smart, why are their stocks long-term losers?

We live in the age of Big Media, with the celebrity moguls at the helms of the media conglomerates telling us that "content is king" and "growth is good." But for all the excitement, glamour, drama, and publicity they produce, why can't these moguls and their companies manage to deliver the kind of returns you'd get from closing your eyes and throwing a dart? In The Curse of the Mogul, Jonathan A. Knee, Bruce C. Greenwald, and Ava Seave lay bare the inexcusable financial performance that lies beneath Big Media's false veneer of power.

By rigorously examining individual media businesses on their own terms, the authors point out the difference between judging a company by how many times its CEO is seen in Sun Valley and by whether it generates consistently superior profitability. The book is packed with enough sharp-edged data to bring the most high-flying, hot-air-filled mogul balloon crashing down to earth. (Portfolio Hardcover)

 

 

The Idea of Justice

Amartya Sen
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Social justice: an ideal, forever beyond our grasp; or one of many practical possibilities? More than a matter of intellectual discourse, the idea of justice plays a real role in how—and how well—people live. And in this book the distinguished scholar Amartya Sen offers a powerful critique of the theory of social justice that, in its grip on social and political thinking, has long left practical realities far behind.

The transcendental theory of justice, the subject of Sen’s analysis, flourished in the Enlightenment and has proponents among some of the most distinguished philosophers of our day; it is concerned with identifying perfectly just social arrangements, defining the nature of the perfectly just society. The approach Sen favors, on the other hand, focuses on the comparative judgments of what is “more” or “less” just, and on the comparative merits of the different societies that actually emerge from certain institutions and social interactions.

At the heart of Sen’s argument is a respect for reasoned differences in our understanding of what a “just society” really is. People of different persuasions—for example, utilitarians, economic egalitarians, labor right theorists, no­-nonsense libertarians—might each reasonably see a clear and straightforward resolution to questions of justice; and yet, these clear and straightforward resolutions would be completely different. In light of this, Sen argues for a comparative perspective on justice that can guide us in the choice between alternatives that we inevitably face. (Harvard University Press)

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