Books

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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The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty

R. Glenn Hubbard
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A bold fusion of ethics and smart business, The Aid Trap shows how the same energy, goodwill, and money that we devote to charity can help local business thrive. R. Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan, two leading scholars in business and finance, demonstrate that by diverting a major share of charitable aid into the local business sector of poor countries, citizens can take the lead in the growth of their own economies. Although the aid system supports noble goals, a local well-digging company cannot compete with a foreign charity that digs wells for free. By investing in that local company a sustainable system of development can take root. (Columbia University Press)

 

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Racing Towards Excellence

Muzaffar A. Khan, Jan Sramek, and Sir Howard Davies (Foreword)
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At last, finally here comes a book for a generation that is often almost as confused as it is ambitious. Racing Towards Excellence fills the gap; it explains how and when outperformance happens, how it leads to happiness and how to practically achieve both. Its principles are surprisingly universal and applicable to any field or activity, e.g. academia, business, entrepreneurship, finance, sports, arts etc.

Amongst the thousands of self-help books, this book stands out with its refreshing attitude, well executed combination of theory and practice, and the unique background of the authors. Covering areas ranging from inspiration, vision, love and responsibility to habits, study skills, health and fitness, communication, networking, mentoring and productive leisure, Racing Towards Excellence is a must-read for all ambitious students and recent graduates. (Leveraged Publishing Ltd)

 

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The Economics of Contracts (International Library of Critical Writings in Economics)

Patrick Bolton, Barbara and David Zalaznick
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The Economics of Contracts provides a guided tour to the leading ideas in contract theory. It assembles some of the foundational writings on contracting under limited and asymmetric information, incentives and mechanism design. It contains, in particular, the key contributions of five recent Nobel Prize winners in economics and brings together the most important articles that have followed these path-breaking works.(Edward Elgar Pub)

 

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Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy And Why It Matters for Global Capitalism

Robert Shiller & George Akerlof
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The global financial crisis has made it painfully clear that powerful psychological forces are imperiling the wealth of nations today. From blind faith in ever-rising housing prices to plummeting confidence in capital markets, "animal spirits" are driving financial events worldwide. In this book, acclaimed economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller challenge the economic wisdom that got us into this mess, and put forward a bold new vision that will transform economics and restore prosperity.

Akerlof and Shiller reassert the necessity of an active government role in economic policymaking by recovering the idea of animal spirits, a term John Maynard Keynes used to describe the gloom and despondence that led to the Great Depression and the changing psychology that accompanied recovery. Like Keynes, Akerlof and Shiller know that managing these animal spirits requires the steady hand of government--simply allowing markets to work won't do it. In rebuilding the case for a more robust, behaviorally informed Keynesianism, they detail the most pervasive effects of animal spirits in contemporary economic life--such as confidence, fear, bad faith, corruption, a concern for fairness, and the stories we tell ourselves about our economic fortunes--and show how Reaganomics, Thatcherism, and the rational expectations revolution failed to account for them. (Princeton University Press)

 

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