Summer Books 2022: Economics

Monetary Policy of the 21st Century: The Federal Reserve from the Great Inflation to COVID-19
by Ben Bernanke, WW Norton £25/$35

If you want to criticize something intelligently, you have to understand it. Ben Bernanke, one of the world’s leading monetary economists and Chairman of the Federal Reserve during the global financial crisis, is well placed to explain the economic forces and ideas behind central bank policies, particularly the Fed, over the last half century. The book is characteristically well argued. But ironically, soon after the Fed approved its new framework aimed at achieving “maximum employment,” rising inflation brought back the worries of the 1970s. Nothing, it turns out, lasts forever.

Why we fight: The Roots of War and the Roads to Peace
by Christopher Blattman Vikings £18.99/Penguin $32

Christopher Blattman of the University of Chicago has written an excellent book on one of the most important questions in human behavior: why do we fight? He notes that the vast majority of conflicts do not turn violent. If they do, it’s because there aren’t enough incentives to compromise. Blattman gives five reasons for this. We’re seeing one of them right now. Vladimir Putin started a war because he believes that it is in his interests and that in today’s Russia, nobody else’s interests matter.

Disturbance: Hard times in the 21st century
by Helen Thompson, Oxford University Press £20/$27.95

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University. In this ambitious book, she attempts to explain the economic and political forces that are shaping (and reshaping) our world. Its story has three elements: first, the geopolitics of energy, especially oil; second, economics, especially monetary and energy management; third, national politics, especially those of western democracies, especially the rise of plutocracy. The book is both disturbing and thought-provoking.

Unleash India: Hard truths and clear decisions for an economic revival
by Ajay Chhibber and Salman Anees Soz, HarperCollins £21.50

India will soon be the most populous country on earth. But will it also be a successful one? This is a crucial question, not only for Indians but for the rest of humanity. The excellent book by Ajay Chhibber and Salman Anees Soz shows that prosperity is far from guaranteed. Just over a decade ago, sustained rapid economic growth was widely considered highly likely. Now the optimism is gone. The book provides an excellent overview of what went wrong and what needs to be done to make it right.

The Chancellors: Managing the UK economy in times of crisis
by Howard Davies, Policy £15.99 / $22.95

Howard Davies has been researching the role and performance of the UK Treasury since 1997. To this end, he managed to interview Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Philip Hammond. The story is fascinating as it covers so many challenges and changes. Davies is friendlier to the Treasury than I would be. Still, he acknowledges that difficulties lie ahead: political and economic realities do not contrast favorably with the belief in free markets and fiscal discipline that guides this powerful institution.

gamble on development: Why some countries win and others lose
by Stefan Dercon Hurst £25 / $34.95

Stefan Dercon, director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, poses the most important question in economics: why do some developing countries develop and others not? There has been a lot of progress. But these advances have also been very different. The answer, he argues, lies not in politics per se, let alone the delivery of foreign aid or the transformation of global institutions, but in economic policy: development will occur when the elites decide it is in their interests to to deliver. This “development deal” is key: It’s as simple – and difficult – as this.

Financial Cold War: A look at Sino-US relations from the financial markets
by James A Fok, Wiley £21 / $29.95

The growing friction between the US and China is the most important political and economic fact of our world. In this book, the author – a China and finance expert who has long lived in Hong Kong – focuses on how these tensions are affecting the key area of ​​finance. He points very clearly to the fragilities and dangers posed by the financial ties between these two very different and increasingly rival superpowers.

Summer books 2022

All week long, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Tuesday: Andrew Hill’s business
Wednesday: Fiction by Laura Battle
Thursday: Story by Tony Barber
Friday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Saturday: The Critics’ Choice

trade connections: New rules for a new world
by James Bacchus, Cambridge University Press £29.99 / $39.99

Jim Bacchus was the chief justice of the World Trade Organization in its first decade. Now, at a time of crisis for the global trading system, he is arguing for a radical refresh of the system for a world facing tremendous new challenges, including the pandemic, climate change and the new digital economy. We must have the courage to reform the system instead of abandoning the world economy to chaos. We are too connected to each other for the latter choice to make sense. He’s right.

reboot of the future: How to fix the intangible economy
by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, Princeton University Press £22 / $27.95

This thought-provoking book builds on that capitalism without capital by the same authors. It finds that high-income economies suffer from the ills of economic stagnation, inequality, both reduced and increased competition, fragility and pervasive counterfeiting. The authors argue that this is due to the shift from physical to intangible capital as the main driver of growth and a corresponding failure to recognize the need to transform our institutions and policies in response to this shift. The solutions include creating better performing states.

An economist’s perspective: Essays by John H. Makin from a transformative era
by John H Makin, American Business Institute £27/$35

The late John Makin seemed to belong to a dying breed: a thoughtful, well-informed, and open-minded conservative economist. Educated at the University of Chicago, he was long associated with the American Enterprise Institute and Caxton Associates, a hedge fund. This collection of essays demonstrates his qualities as an astute and balanced economic commentator. For Makin, markets are irreplaceable institutions, not gods. The book evokes many conversations with a very missed friend.

Can’t we just print more money?: Economics in ten simple questions
by Rupal Patel and Jack Meaning, Cornerstone Press £14.99

If you think you should understand how economists think but don’t know where to start, this book is the answer. Written by two Bank of England economists, it provides a clear explanation of fundamental economics, including supply and demand, climate, labor markets, growth, trade, inflation, money, personal investments, financial crises and why we can’t just print more money. The Bank should be congratulated on this educational effort. Buy this book for the curious person, young, old or in between.

Reconstruction of the world trading system
by Andreas Stoeckel Heeled Group £15 / $17.49

Andy Stoeckel is one of Australia’s leading trade economists. At a time when attacks on international trade are pervasive, he has written a concise and compelling booklet on how to salvage this foundation of global prosperity. His argument is simple: without strong and independent domestic institutions tasked with distinguishing national trade interests from narrow protectionist interests, the survival of an open, rules-based global trading system is doomed to fail.

Tell us what you think

What are your favorites from this list – and which books did we miss? Tell us in the comments below

fragile future: The uncertain economics of disasters, pandemics and climate change
by Vito Tanzi Cambridge University Press £20/$24.99

In different ways, the pandemic and climate change are forcing us to acknowledge the inescapable reality of uncertainty. Vito Tanzi, former head of the International Monetary Fund’s Department of Financial Affairs, points to some key implications. One is that we can and should use fiscal policy much better in response to shocks: in the case of Covid-19, for example, we should have imposed a temporary tax on the rich. Fundamentally, our interconnected world needs both more and better global governance.

growth for the better: Transforming capitalism to save humanity from climate catastrophe
by Alessio Terzi Harvard University Press £23.95/$29.95

Should we abandon economic growth or even reverse the growth of the past two centuries to halt climate change? The author, an economist working at the European Commission, argues that such demands are neither necessary nor feasible: they are utopian fantasies. What is needed instead are practical and politically acceptable options. Successful policies will recognize the need for market incentives, active government, social cohesion and international cooperation. Above all, technology is our friend, not our enemy.

The enablers: How the West Supports Kleptocrats and Corruption – Endangering Our Democracy
by Frank Vogel Rowman and Littlefield £25/$32

Frank Vogl has been an activist against the evils of corruption for decades. In this hard-hitting and sobering book, he explains not only how ubiquitous it is today, but also how Western governments, corporations, and professionals are enabling the kleptocratic regimes behind much of it. That’s not just bad in and of itself. It is a threat to the legitimacy and perhaps the very survival of our democracies. The “klepto-cash” flowing into our economies is a poison that weakens us and strengthens our enemies.

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