economic development

Economism: Bad economics and the rise of inequality

Economism: Bad economics and the rise of inequality  / James Kwak
New York: Pantheon Books, 2017. 237 p.

Here is a bracing deconstruction of the framework for understanding the world that is learned as gospel in Economics 101, regardless of its imaginary assumptions and misleading half-truths. Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits.

In order to illuminate the fallacies of economism, James Kwak first offers a primer on supply and demand, market equilibrium, and social welfare: the underpinnings of most popular economic arguments. Then he provides a historical account of how economism became a prevalent mode of thought in the United States—focusing on the people who packaged Econ 101 into sound bites that were then repeated until they took on the aura of truth. He shows us how issues of moment in contemporary American society—labor markets, taxes, finance, health care, and international trade, among others—are shaped by economism, demonstrating in each case with clarity and élan how, because of its failure to reflect the complexities of our world, economism has had a deleterious influence on policies that affect hundreds of millions of Americans.


How change happens

How change happens / Duncan Green
Oxford, GB: Oxford Univ. Press, 2016. 268 p.

Human society is full of would-be 'change agents', a restless mix of campaigners, lobbyists, and officials, both individuals and organizations, set on transforming the world. They want to improve public services, reform laws and regulations, guarantee human rights, get a fairer deal for those on the sharp end, achieve greater recognition for any number of issues, or simply be treated with respect.
Striking then, that not many universities have a Department of Change Studies, to which social activists can turn for advice and inspiration. Instead, scholarly discussions of change are fragmented with few conversations crossing disciplinary boundaries, rarely making it onto the radars of those actively seeking change.
This book bridges the gap between academia and practice, bringing together the best research from a range of academic disciplines and the evolving practical understanding of activists to explore the topic of social and political change. Drawing on many first-hand examples from the global experience of Oxfam, one of the world's largest social justice NGOs, as well as the author's insights from studying and working on international development, it tests ideas on How Change Happens and offers the latest thinking on what works to achieve progressive change.


The butterfly defect: How globalization creates systemic risks, and what to do about it

The butterfly defect: How globalization creates systemic risks, and what to do about it / Ian Goldin, Mike Mariathasan
Princeton, US: Princeton Univ. Press, 2016. 296 p.

The Butterfly Defect addresses the widening gap between the new systemic risks generated by globalization and their effective management. It shows how the dynamics of turbo-charged globalization has the potential and power to destabilize our societies. Drawing on the latest insights from a wide variety of disciplines, Ian Goldin and Mike Mariathasan provide practical guidance for how governments, businesses, and individuals can better manage globalization and risk.

Goldin and Mariathasan demonstrate that systemic risk issues are now endemic everywhere—in supply chains, pandemics, infrastructure, ecology and climate change, economics, and politics. Unless we address these concerns, they will lead to greater protectionism, xenophobia, nationalism, and, inevitably, deglobalization, rising inequality, conflict, and slower growth.

The Butterfly Defect shows that mitigating uncertainty and risk in an interconnected world is an essential task for our future.




Turbulent and mighty continent : What future for Europe?

The economic socialisation of young peopleTurbulent and mighty continent : What future for Europe? / Anthony Giddens
Cambridge, GB: Polity, 2014. 242 p.

Launching his new book Turbulent and Might Continent: What Future for Europe?, renowned sociologist Professor Lord Giddens discusses why the EU needs to respond to changes affecting the industrial world and why pro-Europeans must rethink the European project to make it more suitable for the needs of the 21st century.


The signal and the noise

The signal and the noiseThe signal and the noise / Nate Silver
New York: Penguin Press, 2012. 534 p.

Nate Silver built an innovative system for predicting baseball performance, predicted the 2008 election within a hair’s breadth, and became a national sensation as a blogger—all by the time he was thirty. The New York Times now publishes, where Silver is one of the nation’s most influential political forecasters.
Drawing on his own groundbreaking work, Silver examines the world of prediction, investigating how we can distinguish a true signal from a universe of noisy data. Most predictions fail, often at great cost to society, because most of us have a poor understanding of probability and uncertainty. Both experts and laypeople mistake more confident predictions for more accurate ones. But overconfidence is often the reason for failure. If our appreciation of uncertainty improves, our predictions can get better too. This is the “prediction paradox”: The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in planning for the future.
In keeping with his own aim to seek truth from data, Silver visits the most successful forecasters in a range of areas, from hurricanes to baseball, from the poker table to the stock market, from Capitol Hill to the NBA. He explains and evaluates how these forecasters think and what bonds they share. What lies behind their success? Are they good—or just lucky? What patterns have they unraveled? And are their forecasts really right? He explores unanticipated commonalities and exposes unexpected juxtapositions. And sometimes, it is not so much how good a prediction is in an absolute sense that matters but how good it is relative to the competition. In other cases, prediction is still a very rudimentary—and dangerous—science.
Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.
With everything from the health of the global economy to our ability to fight terrorism dependent on the quality of our predictions, Nate Silver’s insights are an essential read.


The great financial crisis in Finland and Sweden : The Nordic experience of finanical liberalization

The economic socialisation of young peopleThe great financial crisis in Finland and Sweden : The Nordic experience of finanical liberalization /  Lars Jonung
Cheltenham: Elgar, 2009. 337 p.

Following World War II, Nordic countries were commonly regarded as successful and stable economies. This perception was, however, shattered in the early 1990s when Finland and Sweden encountered severe financial crises. Here, the authors explore the symptoms of financial crisis - decreasing real income, soaring unemployment and exploding public deficits - and their devastating effects. The book compares and contrasts the experiences of Finland and Sweden, then adopts an international perspective, encompassing the experiences of Asia, Latin America, Denmark and Norway. Lessons from the 1990s crisis are drawn, and possible solutions prescribed. The conclusion is that long-term effects of financial crises - financial liberalization and integration - are not as dramatic as the short-term effects, but may prove to be of greater importance over time. Only the future will show whether these long-term benefits will balance or even outweigh the enormous short-term costs of the crises.


The end of cheap China

The end of cheap ChinaThe end of cheap China: Economic and cultural trends that will disrupt the world / Shaun Rein
Hoboken: Wiley, 2012. 224 p.

Rein takes an engaging and informative approach to examining the extraordinary changes taking place across all levels of Chinese society, talking to everyone from Chinese billionaires and senior government officials to poor migrant workers and even prostitutes and drawing on personal stories and experiences from living in China since the 1990s as well as hard economic data. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of China's transformation, from fast-improving Chinese companies to confident, optimistic Chinese women to the role of China's government, and at the end breaks down key lessons for readers to take away.
The End of Cheap China shows:
-How rising labor and real estate costs are forcing manufacturers of cheap Chinese products to close, relocate, or move up the value stream
-How a restructuring economy moving away from exports to domestic consumption, and rising incomes will create opportunities for foreign brands to sell products in China rather than just producing there
-How Chinese consumption will build pressure on the global commodities markets, causing inflation and friction with other nations
-How China's economic transformation spells the end of cheap consumption for Americans
China's days as a low cost production center are numbered. The End of Cheap China exposes the end of America's consumerist way of life and gives clear advice on how companies can succeed in the new world order.