Economy
US_Economy
 
 

 

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* America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.  James Gustave Speth (Prof of Law, Vermont Law School; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos). New Haven, CT: Yale U Press, Sept 2013, 288p, $18pb (hardcover, 2012).  Founder and president of the World Resources Institute (1982-1993) and former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1999-2009)  identifies a dozen features of the American political economy—the country's basic operating system—where transformative change is essential; spells out the specific changes that are needed to move toward a new political economy—one in which the true priority is to sustain people and planet, and to offer an auspicious future for American children and grandchildren.   Transitions are needed from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of well-being, to a “post-growth society” beyond mere GDP growth, from Wall Street to Main Street, from economic insecurity to security, and from weak democracy to strong democracy.  (AMERICAN POLITICAL ECONOMY: NEEDED CHANGES * SOCIETY * ECONOMY* GDP QUESTIONED * SUSTAINABILITY)

 

* Routledge Handbook of the Economics of Climate Change Adaptation. Edited by Anil Markandya, Ibon Galarraga, and Eliza Sainz de Murieta (all at Basque Centre for Climate Change, U of the Basque Country, Spain). NY: Routledge, Jan 2014, 464p, $205. Climate change is one of the great challenges facing humankind, due to the great uncertainty regarding future impacts that affect regions and ecosystems. Many publications deal with economic issues relating to mitigation policies, but the economics of adaptation has received relatively little attention. This book identifies the difficulties, examining such issues as uncertainty, baselines, reversibility, flexibility and adaptive management, distributional impacts, discount rates and time horizons, mixing monetary and non-monetary evaluations, limits to the use of cost-benefit analysis, economy-wide impacts, cross-sectoral linkages, technology and the impacts of extreme events, and the role of low- and middle-income countries. (CLIMATE CHANGE * ADAPTATION ECONOMICS)

 

* The Ethical Economy: Rebuilding Value After the Crisis. Adam Arvidsson (sociology faculty, U of Milan, Italy; research fellow, Copenhagen Business School) and Nicolai Peitersen (London UK; founder, China Hanwang Forum). NY: Columbia U Press, July 2013, 224p, $32.50. A shifting global economy now offers the opportunity for a more ethical system to take root to balance the injustices of extreme poverty and wealth. Wealth creation can be the result of a new kind of social production no longer only characterized by the pursuit of private interests, materialist consumerism, and individual financial gain. Financial markets could become a central arena in which a diversity of ethical concerns could be integrated into tangible economic valuations. Advocates use of innovations such as open-source software, social-media platforms, socialized production, and other diffuse applications; these developments help initiate a radical democratization of financial markets and the value decisions they generate. (ETHICAL ECONOMY * ECONOMY AND JUSTICE * INEQUALITY)

 

* Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Dec 2012, 352p, $112pb (with free e-book). Gender equality is not just about economic empowerment. It is about fairness and equity, and also a key factor in self-reported well-being and happiness across the world. Gender gaps are pervasive in all walks of economic life and imply large losses in terms of foregone productivity and living standards to the individuals concerned and the economy. The report focuses on how best to close these gender gaps in four broad areas: social norms and public policies, education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Key policy messages: 1) Greater gender equality in educational attainment has a strong positive effect on economic growth; 2) Stereotyping needs to be addressed in educational choices at school from a young age; 3) Good and affordable childcare is a key factor for better gender equality in employment; 4) Support policies for women-owned enterprises need to target all existing firms, not just start-ups and small enterprises. (GENDER GAPS AND SOCIETY * GENDER AND WELL-BEING * ECONOMY AND GENDER)

 

* Inclusive Wealth Report 2012: Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability. United Nations University International Human Dimensions Programme and United Nations Environment Programme. NY: Cambridge U Press, July 2012, $48pb. Economic production indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI) fail to reflect the state of natural resources or ecological conditions and both focus exclusively on the short term, without indicating whether national policies are sustainable over longer periods of time. This report presents an index that measures the wealth of nations by carrying out a comprehensive analysis of a country's capital assets, including manufactured, human and natural capital, and its corresponding values: the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI). Contents focus on the wealth accounts and foundations of wealth accounting. (INCLUSIVE WEALTH INDEX - IWI * ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABILITY)
* The Hidden Alternative: Co-operative Values, Past, Present and Future. Edited by Anthony Webster (Liverpool John Moores U) and four others. Tokyo & NY: United Nations U Press, April 2012, 384p, $27. The UN Proclamation of 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives challenges the hegemony of the investor led business model in economics and business. Contributors advocate an alternative for the organization of human economic and social affairs that should establish its place at the forefront of public and academic discussion and policy making. Chapter discuss education, fair trade, politics and governance, planning, sustainability, and how cooperatives have coped quite well with the global economic crisis. [Also see “Emerging Co-operatives” by Gary Gardner in Vital Signs, Volume 20 (Worldwatch Institute, Island Press, July 2013, pp106-108), noting that some 1 billion people in 96 countries now belong to a consumer or producer co-operative, which exceeds the 893 million shareholders of corporations.]  (ECONOMY * CO-OPERATIVES)
* Inclusive Wealth Report 2012: Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability. United Nations University International Human Dimensions Programme and United Nations Environment Programme. NY: Cambridge U Press, July 2012, $48pb. Economic production indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI) fail to reflect the state of natural resources or ecological conditions and both focus exclusively on the short term, without indicating whether national policies are sustainable over longer periods of time. This report presents an index that measures the wealth of nations by carrying out a comprehensive analysis of a country's capital assets, including manufactured, human and natural capital, and its corresponding values: the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI). Contents focus on the wealth accounts and foundations of wealth accounting. (INCLUSIVE WEALTH INDEX - IWI * ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABILITY)

* The Hidden Alternative: Co-operative Values, Past, Present and Future. Edited by Anthony Webster (Liverpool John Moores U) and four others. Tokyo & NY: United Nations U Press, April 2012, 384p, $27. The UN Proclamation of 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives challenges the hegemony of the investor led business model in economics and business. Contributors advocate an alternative for the organization of human economic and social affairs that should establish its place at the forefront of public and academic discussion and policy making. Chapter discuss education, fair trade, politics and governance, planning, sustainability, and how cooperatives have coped quite well with the global economic crisis. [Also see “Emerging Co-operatives” by Gary Gardner in Vital Signs, Volume 20 (Worldwatch Institute, Island Press, July 2013, pp106-108), noting that some 1 billion people in 96 countries now belong to a consumer or producer co-operative, which exceeds the 893 million shareholders of corporations.]  (ECONOMY * CO-OPERATIVES)

The End of Progress: How Modern Economics Has Failed UsGraeme P. Maxton (Singapore).  Singapore: John Wiley & Sons (Asia), 2011, 226p.  A freelance contributor to The Economist argues that “our species is moving backwards: we are destroying more than we build.”  Every year the world economy grows by about $1.5 trillion, while we devastate the planet to the tune of $4.5 trillion, due to environmental damage.  We also have huge financial worries, an unstable global economy, an assault on liberty, false goals demanding growth for its own sake, a mania for consumption, and looming battles over food, water, and oil.  “A major cause of our problems is modern economic thinking,’ based on ideas mostly established in the 18th century.  Chapters discuss moving backwards intellectually, China’s rising influence (which will not help), rising oil costs (which will inflate the cost of almost everything else), falling standards of living and healthcare, the rising cost of nutrition and incidence of diseases, the need to price resources properly, and the need to rethink how and why we are governed (we need global governance to match the influence of global companies), and the need for universal birth control.    (ECONOMY * PROGRESS MOVING BACKWARDS) 

**Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link.   Bernard Lietaer (Research Fellow, U of California-Berkeley; formerly at Central Bank of Belgium and Gaia Hedge Funds), Christian Arnsperger (Prof of Economics, U Catholique de Louvain), Sally Goerner (Triangle Center for the Study of Complex Systems), and Stefan Brunnhuber (Vice-Chair, European Institute of Medicine, Club of Rome Austrian Chapter).  Devon UK: Triarchy Press, June 2012, 211p, $25pb.  (www.money-sustainability.net).  A Report from the Club of Rome-EU Chapter to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy, arguing that “the current money system is both a crucial part of the overall sustainability problem and a vital part of any solution.”  The money system is the “Missing Link” between finance and the environment.  This Report demonstrates a structural monetary flaw in the very manner in which we create money.  We suffer from a three-layered collective blind spot: 1) the hegemony of the idea of a single, central currency in any society; 2) the 20th century ideological warfare between capitalism and communism (what they have in common, however, is imposition of a single national currency monopoly created through bank debt); 3) creation of central banks as enforcers of the monetary monopoly.  We thus have “a worldwide monetary monoculture in which the same type of exchange medium is put into circulation in every country.”  This tends to spawn a brittle and unsustainable system, amplifies boom and bust cycles, leads to short-term thinking by discounting future costs, concentrates wealth, and devalues social capital.  The structural solution to give sustainability a chance is to diversify the available exchange media and the agents that create them—to create a monetary ecosystem.  Nine examples of public and private alternative currencies are provided, which can work in parallel with conventional bank-debt money, e.g.: wellness tokens, natural savings backed by living trees, the C3 Business-to-Business system, the Trade Reference Currency (a global B2B proposal encouraging long-term thinking), and the Europe-wide system of ECOs to fund ecological projects).  Concludes that we must usher in a new age of monetary and society experimentation, with thinking outside the box as the new common sense.  A monetary ecology calls for a new mode of economic governance that allows two types of economy to peacefully coexist: the mainstream economy that uses conventional money and a cooperative economy that allows regions, cities, neighborhoods and NGOs to develop the full potential of their projects without need to depend on bank-debt currency. (ECONOMY * SUSTAINABILITY * MONEY AND SUSTAINABILITY)

* People Money: The Promise of Regional Currencies.  Margrit Kennedy (former Prof, U of Hanover), Bernard Lietaer (research fellow, UC-Berkeley; former Central Bank of Belgium), and John Rogers (co-founder, Wales Institute for Community Currencies, U of Newport).  Axminster, Devon, UK: Triarchy Press, July 2012, 200p, $30pb.  In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, vast number of people have had their livelihoods stripped away, and the future looks bleak for many of them.  The growth vs. austerity options under consideration do little to help stabilize the financial sector, which has seen 145 banking crises and 208 monetary crashes in the last 40 years, according to the IMF.  The authors show how regional currencies can transform the lives and well-being of local communities, how they can sustain businesses, and how local authorities can participate in their success.  Communities are full of underused resources, and regional currencies mobilize these resources without burdening taxpayers, and without risk of financial meltdown.  By reinventing money, these currencies value skills, harness volunteers more effectively, support learning and skill-sharing, and meet the demand for care of the elderly.  A regional currency should be win-win for all participants, transparent to users, democratically governed, and sustainably financed.  The authors provide a framework of five phases for currency designers to work with, as concerns cost recovery, management structure, appropriate governance, marketing strategy, and training needs.  [NOTE: Kennedy is author of Free Money (1987; translated into 23 languages) and Occupy Money: Creating an Economy Where Everybody Wins (Oct 2012), and has been instrumental for the start-up of >60 regional currency initiatives in German-speaking parts of Europe.  Rogers ran a local exchange system in Wales for 10 years.  Lietaer, former general manager of Gaia Hedge Funds, is the author of 15 books on monetary and financial issues, including Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link (Triarchy Press, June 2012), a report from the Club of Rome—EU Chapter to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy), which provides a more detailed analysis of the principles behind alternative currencies.]   (ECONOMY * MONEY * REGIONAL CURRENCIES * WORK * SUSTAINABILITY)

 

* Money Laundering in the Real Estate Sector: Suspicious Properties. Brigitte Unger and Joras Ferwerda (Utrecht U School of Economics, Netherlands). Northampton MA: Edward Elgar, 2011, 192p, $110 (on-line price $99). In many countries, the real estate sector is vulnerable to money laundering due the high value of assets, price fluctuations and speculation within the market, difficulties in assessing the true value of a house, and the fact that the legal owner is not necessarily the economic owner. Shows how to detect criminal investment in the real estate sector by identifying 25 characteristics which render a property susceptible to money laundering; the more such characteristics a property exhibits, the more suspicious it becomes. (ECONOMY * CRIME/JUSTICE * REAL ESTATE * MONEY LAUNDERING)

** Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link.   Bernard Lietaer (Research Fellow, U of California-Berkeley; formerly at Central Bank of Belgium and Gaia Hedge Funds), Christian Arnsperger (Prof of Economics, U Catholique de Louvain), Sally Goerner (Triangle Center for the Study of Complex Systems), and Stefan Brunnhuber (Vice-Chair, European Institute of Medicine, Club of Rome Austrian Chapter).  Devon UK: Triarchy Press, June 2012, 211p, $25pb.  (www.money-sustainability.net).  A Report from the Club of Rome-EU Chapter to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy, arguing that “the current money system is both a crucial part of the overall sustainability problem and a vital part of any solution.”  The money system is the “Missing Link” between finance and the environment.  This Report demonstrates a structural monetary flaw in the very manner in which we create money.  We suffer from a three-layered collective blind spot: 1) the hegemony of the idea of a single, central currency in any society; 2) the 20th century ideological warfare between capitalism and communism (what they have in common, however, is imposition of a single national currency monopoly created through bank debt); 3) creation of central banks as enforcers of the monetary monopoly.  We thus have “a worldwide monetary monoculture in which the same type of exchange medium is put into circulation in every country.”  This tends to spawn a brittle and unsustainable system, amplifies boom and bust cycles, leads to short-term thinking by discounting future costs, concentrates wealth, and devalues social capital.  The structural solution to give sustainability a chance is to diversify the available exchange media and the agents that create them—to create a monetary ecosystem.  Nine examples of public and private alternative currencies are provided, which can work in parallel with conventional bank-debt money, e.g.: wellness tokens, natural savings backed by living trees, the C3 Business-to-Business system, the Trade Reference Currency (a global B2B proposal encouraging long-term thinking), and the Europe-wide system of ECOs to fund ecological projects).  Concludes that we must usher in a new age of monetary and society experimentation, with thinking outside the box as the new common sense.  A monetary ecology calls for a new mode of economic governance that allows two types of economy to peacefully coexist: the mainstream economy that uses conventional money and a cooperative economy that allows regions, cities, neighborhoods and NGOs to develop the full potential of their projects without need to depend on bank-debt currency. (ECONOMY * SUSTAINABILITY * MONEY AND SUSTAINABILITY)

* The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good. Robert H. Frank (Prof of Economics, Cornell U; Distinguished Fellow, Demos). Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, 2011; Oct 2012 edition with new afterword, 272p, $16.95pb. Within the next century Charles Darwin will unseat Adam Smith as the intellectual founder of economics, because Darwin’s understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith’s. Economic competition often leads to “arms races,” encouraging behaviors that not only cause enormous harm to the group but also provide no lasting advantages for individuals, since any gains tend to be relative and mutually offsetting. To tame the Darwin economy, we need not prohibit harmful behaviors but to tax them. By doing so, we could make the economic pie larger, eliminate government debt, and provide better public services without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone. (ECONOMY *  TAXATION FOR THE COMMON GOOD) 

 
 
* The Economists’ Voice 2.0: The Financial Crisis, Health Care Reform, and More.  Edited by Aaron S. Edlin (Prof of Economics, U of California, Berkeley) and Joseph. E. Stiglitz (Prof of Economic, Columbia U; former Chief Economist and Senior VP, World Bank).  NY: Columbia U Press, June 2012, 256p, $22.99 (e-book).  Gathers together the strongest 32 essays published in The Economists’ Voice – a nonpartisan online journal, by academics, economists, consultants, and policy makers. Topics include the economics of  healthcare reform, the future of the health insurance industry, the value of the health insurance subsidies, effects of financial regulatory reform, possibilities for ratings reform, and the issue of limiting bankers’ pay.  Also considers  investment banking regulation, alternative strategies for addressing the next financial crisis, stability of pension security bonds, the value of a carbon tax, the unforeseen consequences of government debt, and more.               (ECONOMIC CRISIS * HEALTHCARE REFORM: ECONOMICS * ECONOMY)

 

* Inclusive Wealth Report 2012: Measuring Progress Toward Sustainability.  UNU International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (Partha Dasgupta, IWR Science Advisor; Prof Emeritus of Economics, Cambridge U).  Cambridge UK: Cambridge U Press, July 2012, 336p (www.ihdp.unu.edu/article/iwr) .  Introduces the Inclusive Wealth Index  to measure the three kinds of assets available in an economy: physical capital (machinery, buildings, infrastructure, etc.), human capital (education and skills of the population), and natural capital (agricultural land, forests, fisheries, fossil fuels, and minerals).  Of 20 countries assessed, Japan had the highest inclusive wealth per person, followed by the US, Canada, Norway, Australia, Germany, Britain, and France.  Among the 20 countries, 14 had positive IWI growth rates in the 1990-2008 period, led by China at 2.1%, Germany at 1.8%, France at 1.4%, four nations at 0.9% (Japan, UK, Brazil, and India), the US at 0.7%, Canada at 0.4%, Australia at 0.1%, and Kenya at 0.06%.  Six nations had negative growth rates: Colombia, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Venezuela  (primarily due to high population growth, except in Russia).  Of the 20 countries assessed, Japan was the only one with growth in natural capital, due to increased forest cover.  “Human capital has increased in every country, being the primary capital form that offsets the decline in natural capital in most economies.” Recommendations: 1) many countries should build up investments in renewable natural capital (e.g. reforestation, agro-biodiversity landscapes, and seascapes); 2) countries should embed the IWI in their macroeconomic planning, alongside common indicators like GDP (which is inadequate and misleading as a measure of economic growth); 3) “governments should shift from an income-based accounting framework to a wealth accounting framework”; 4) governments should move away from GDP per capita, and evaluate policies based on contributions to inclusive wealth; 5) research programs should be established “for valuing key components of natural capital, particularly ecosystem services.” (much work must still be done to make natural capital accounts fully operational so that they become mainstream instruments in policymaking).  [NOTE: An important step forward in moving away from the misleading GDP measure of progress, although the many critics of GDP may still find various faults with IWI.] (INCLUSIVE WEALTH INDEX * ECONOMY * SUSTAINABILITY)

 

* Finance and the Good SocietyRobert J. Shiller (Prof of Economics, Yale U).  Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, April 2012, 304p, $24.95.  Author of Irrational Exuberance argues that “finance should be defined not merely as the manipulation of money or the management of risk but as the stewardship of society’s assets.”  Rather than condemning finance for the subprime mortgage meltdown, we need to reclaim it for the common good.  Far from being a parasite on society, finance is one of the most powerful tools we have for solving our problems and increasing general well-being.  Calls for rechanneling financial creativity to benefit society as a whole and describes how inventions such as insurance, mortgages, saving accounts, and pensions contributed to the good of society.  But we have to be careful that government isn’t captured by existing financial interests: there is a sharp distinction between the financial forms that exist today and the kinds of democratized forms we might see tomorrow that considers the interests of all elements of society. (ECONOMY * FINANCE DEMOCRATIZED FOR THE COMMON GOOD)

 

* A New Blueprint for a Green EconomyEdward Barbier (Prof of Economics, U of Wyoming) and Anil Markandya (Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain).  NY: Earthscan/Routledge, Sept 2012, 192p, $35.95pb.  First published in 1989, Blueprint for a Green Economy presented practical policy measures for greening modern economies and putting them on a path to sustainable development.  The current book revisits and updates its main messages by asking what has been achieved in the past 20 years, and what more needs to be done to generate a truly ’green economy’ in the 21C.  Making economies more sustainable requires urgent progress in three key policy areas: valuing the environment, accounting for the environment, and incentives for environmental improvement.  With rapid and widespread global environmental degradation, these policies are still relevant.  Examines the progress since 1989 in implementing policies and other measures to improve environmental valuation, accounting and incentives, and the new policies and approaches needed for economic management of today’s environmental concerns.  (GREEN ECONOMY * ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT * ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS)

 

* Towards an Integrated Paradigm in Heterodox Economics: Alternative Approaches to the Current Eco-Social Crises. Edited by Julien-Francois Gerber (Visiting Fellow, Dept of Economics, Harvard U) and Rolf Steppacher (retired Senior Lecturer of ecological and institutional economics, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland). NY & UK: Palgrave Macmillan, Jan 2012, 256p, $100.  The human imprint on the biosphere has become so pronounced in recent years that there has been talk of a new geological era, the 'Anthropocene'. Gathers contributions from some of the world's foremost heterodox economists to explore new economic directions and paradigms that required to respond to this crisis.  Contributors include Herman Daly on ten policies for a steady-state economy, Juan Martinez-Alier on linking ecological economic and political ecology and languages of valuation, D. Bromley on whether we are trapped in an obsolete economic order, etc.  (ECONOMICS * HETERODOX ECONOMICS)

*The Metropolitan Moment: Building the Next Economy from the Ground UpBruce Katz (VP and director, Brookings Metropolitan Policy program) and Jennifer Bradley (fellow in Metropolitan Policy; co-director Brookings Great Lakes Economic Initiative).  Washington: Brookings Institution Press, May 2012, 160p, $24.95.  Americans must move from an economy driven by domestic consumption, debt, and financial engineering to one that is driven by exports, powered by cleaner energy, fueled by innovation, and is rich in opportunity for all.  Movement toward such an economy must be led by metro areas.  Devotes a chapter to each of the attributes of America’s next economy.  Advocates aggressive investment in a low-carbon economy, which will present new opportunities for the energy sector and the industries that feed it.  States can help build the foundation of the new economy by adequately supporting the metropolitan economic engines that are currently legally powerless.  Also explains the role of the federal government in this transformation, and what it should not do.  (ECONOMY * CITIES * METRO AREAS AND NEXT ECONOMY * LOW-CARBON ECONOMY)
 

*The Assumptions Economists MakeJonathan Schlefer (Research Associate, Harvard Business School).  Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, March 2012, 296p, $28.95 (also as e-book).  Economists make assumptions about the world, and use those assumptions to build imaginary economies (models), from which they generate conclusions.  Overviews rival assumptions and models reaching back to Adam Smith and forward to theorists today.  Economists are in large part accountable for current controversies such as the financial crisis and income inequality; although theorists have won acclaim for creating models that demonstrate the inherent instability of markets, ostensibly practical economists ignored these accepted theories and instead relied on blind faith in the invisible hand of unregulated enterprise. (ECONOMY * ECONOMISTS’ ASSUMPTIONS)

*Changing InequalityRebecca M. Blank (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; former Dean, School of Public Policy, U of Michigan).  Berkeley: U of California Press, Sept 2011, 225p, $24.95pb.  “Inequality has risen sharply over the last three decades.”  Changes in family composition and family size account for about 15% of the rise in US income inequality; most of the rise is due to increases in wage inequality.  Reversing this rapid increase will be difficult, suggesting that “higher inequality is likely to remain a feature of the economic landscape in the US for many decades to come.”  Four ways to reduce inequality are considered: 1) improving skills (but even with a significant upward shift, the effect on inequality would be small); 2) equalizing changes in wages, labor-force participation, and investment income (but increased earnings do not begin to catch up with the earnings gains of higher-income persons); 3) increasing marriage to reduce poverty and improve long-term prospects for low-income children (but significant changes in family composition will have only small effects); 4) an increased safety net (but antipoverty programs are not likely to substantially reduce overall economic inequality).  Factors likely to continue the current trend to increasing inequality include technological changes that advantage skilled workers, greater competition from the developing world, and a political environment favoring lower taxes and wary of redistribution programs.  Factors that may cause inequality to cease rising or even reverse include a sharp decline in the stock market, lower executive salaries, greater empathy for those facing economic difficulties, and acceptance of somewhat higher tax rates. (INEQUALITY * POVERTY IN U.S. * ECONOMY)

 

** The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.  Jeremy Rifkin (President, Foundation on Economic Trends, Bethesda MD; senior lecturer, U of Penn. Wharton School Advanced Management Program).  NY: Palgrave Macmillan, Oct 2011, 288p.  Author of 19 books over the past 30 years argues that our industrial infrastructure built on fossil fuels is aging and in disrepair.  A new economic narrative is needed for a more equitable and sustainable future, based on a convergence of the Internet and renewable energy.  The five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution are shifting to renewable energy, transforming building stock into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on-site, deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies, using the Internet to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing “intergrid,” and transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a smart, interactive power grid.  This democratization of energy will bring a fundamental reordering of human relationships.  Rifkin has worked with the European Parliament since 2006 in drafting an economic development plan.  In May 2007, the EP issued a formal written declaration endorsing the Third Industrial Revolution as the long-term economic vision and road map for the EU.  Unfortunately, Americans largely continue to be in a state of denial.  However, in 2008, 80 US business leaders and trade associations agreed to create a Third Industrial Revolution network to transition the global economy into a “distributed post-carbon era.”  In the next 50 years, the centralized operations of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions will increasingly be subsumed to distributed business practices, and traditional hierarchical organization will give way to lateral power organized nodally across society.  The 40-year build-out of the TIR, the last of the great Industrial Revolutions, will lay the foundation for the emerging collaborative age, where “collaborative power” will fundamentally restructure human relations.  But the TIR is not inevitable: the prospects of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, coupled with the looing climate crisis, “has tipped the odds dangerously in favor of an endgame, not only for civilization as we know it, but for our very species.”                                                     (ENERGY * INTERNET AND
ENERGY * LATERAL POWER * THIRD INDUSTRIAL  REVOLUTION * ECONOMY * MICRO-POWER)
 
 
* Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising.  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, Dec 2011, 388p, 73.  “In the three decades to the recent economic downturn, wage gaps widened and household income inequality increased in a large majority of OECD countries.”  This occurred even when countries were going through a period of sustained economic growth.  Analyzes the major underlying forces behind these developments: the extent to which economic globalization, skill-based technological progress, and institutional and regulatory reforms have had an impact on the distribution of earnings.  This report also documents how tax and benefit systems have changed in the ways they redistribute household incomes, and discusses which policies are most promising to counter increases in inequalities.  (INEQUALITY: OECD OVERVIEW * ECONOMY)
 
 
* Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long RecoveryMenzie D. Chinn (U of Wisconsin) and Jeffry A. Frieden (Harvard U).  NY: W. W. Norton, Sept 2011, 304p, $26.95.  For a century, US policymakers and their allies warned governments of the risks of excessive borrowing, unproductive spending, foolish tax policies, and unwarranted speculation.  “Then, in less than a decade, the US proceeded to demonstrate precisely why such warnings were valid, pursuing virtually every dangerous policy it had advised others against.” The American borrowing binge pulled much of the world along with it.  By 2008 the US became the biggest international borrower in world history, with more than two-thirds of its $6 trillion federal debt in foreign hands.  The proportion of foreign loans to the size of the economy put the US in league with Mexico, Pakistan, and other third-world debtor countries.  The massive inflow of foreign funds financed the booms in housing prices and consumer spending that fueled the economy until the 2008 collapse.  “The US borrowed at lest $5 trillion to get itself into a financial crisis, and it borrowed another $5 trillion to get itself out of the financial crisis…The US government will come out of the Bush boom and bust with a foreign debt well above $10 trillion.”  As a result, the US, similar to other countries in similar positions, “faces a very difficult next ten years.”  The concluding chapter describes ways to set the federal government on a more sustainable fiscal path: allow the Bush tax cuts to lapse as soon as the economy recovers, allow the Alternative Minimum Tax to take effect, augment the current tax system with a VAT, restrain spending (especially for Medicare), lift the cap on Social Security taxes, focus on core principles for new financial regulation (e.g., avoid institutions too big to fail, transparency in transactions), reorient the US economy toward exporting more and importing less, etc.  If Americans do not pay attention to such considerations, “the nation risks losing another decade to stagnation.”                              (ECONOMIC CRISIS * ECONOMY * DEBT CRISIS: U.S.)
 
* State of the World 2012: Creating Sustainable Prosperity.  Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org).  NY: W. W. Norton, Jan 2012, 272p, $19.95.  The 20th annual report issued by the Worldwatch Institute, one of the major environmental think tanks in the world, analyzes progress toward building sustainable economies and offers a new perspective on what changes are necessary to make sustainability a permanent feature of the world’s economies.    (SUSTAINABILITY * ECONOMY)
 
* Pensions at a Glance 2011: Retirement-income Systems in OECD and G20 Countries (Fourth Edition).  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, March 2011, 348p, $47pb (with free PDF) or $32 (pdf).  Pension policy has always involved balancing the adequacy of benefits with their affordability.  This balancing act has become harder as a result of the recent economic and financial crisis.  It adds to the existing and much greater challenge to pension systems arising from population aging.  Many countries have increased pension ages in the face of population aging and longer lives.  Some have introduced an automatic link between pensions and life expectancy.  Improvements to the incentives to work rather than retire are also a common part of recent pension-reform packages.  However, ensuring that there are enough jobs for older workers remains a challenge. More countries are analyzed than in previous editions, including four new members of the OECD: Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia. Where possible, data are also provided for the other major economies in the G20: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Along with data on the European Union’s 27 member states, this brings to 43 the number of economies covered in the report.   The theme of this biennial 2011 edition is links between life expectancy and retirement, with discussion of pensionable age and life expectancy 1950-2050, incentives to retire, and helping older workers find and retain jobs. (WORK * ECONOMY * PENSION TRENDS: OECD * RETIREMENT)
 
* The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental FutureRobert A. Pastor (Prof of Intl Rels, American U; Founder and Director, Center for North America Studies).  NY: Oxford U Press, July 2011, 256p, $24.95.  In its first seven years, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tripled trade and quintupled foreign investment among the US, Mexico, and Canada. In 2001, North America peaked: trade slowed among the three, manufacturing jobs shrunk, and illegal migration and drug-related violence soared because NAFTA’s mandate was too limited to address the new North American agenda.  To reinvigorate the continent and reduce illegal migration, NAFTA should be based on the principle of interdependence, investment in the continent’s infrastructure, and a customs union to expand trade.                                                      (ECONOMY * NAFTA * NORTH AMERICA INTEGRATION)
 
* Government’s Place in the MarketEliot Spitzer (former Governor and Attorney General, New York State).  Cambridge MA: Boston Review Books / MIT Press, March 2011, 96p, $14.95.  On when and how the government should intervene in the workings of the market.  The 2009 American bank bailout was the wrong way: it socialized risk, privatized benefit, and left standing institutions too big to fail, incompetent regulators, and deficient corporate governance.  The right reasons for government intervention in the market are to guarantee transparency, to overcome market failures, and to guard core values against the market’s unfair biases such as racism.  Proposes improvements to corporate governance, making firms responsible for their own risky behavior, and how to improve public trust in government.                    (ECONOMY * GOVERNMENT AND THE MARKET * ECONOMIC CRISIS)
 
* Consumer Policy ToolkitOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, July 2010, 128p, $40 (free pdf).  One of the principal functions of governments of market-based economies is to establish economic frameworks that promote innovation, productivity, and growth for the ultimate benefit of consumers.  But “more choice and more complexity in many markets have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to compare and assess the value of products and services.”  Similar challenges face government authorities responsible for protecting consumers from unfair commercial practices and fraud.  Examines how markets have evolved and provides insights for improved consumer policy making (including accreditation, provision, standards, enforcement, and cooling-off periods). Explores how the study of behavioral economics is changing the way policy makers are addressing problems.                                         (BUSINESS * ECONOMY * CONSUMER POLICY)

* The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity.  Richard Florida (Director, Martin Prosperity Institute, U of Toronto).  NY: Harper, May 2010/240p/$26.99.  Urbanist author of The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) argues that we view long economic downturns in terms of the pain they cause, but these great crises are also opportunities to remake our economy and society.  Identifies patterns that will drive the next Great Reset and reshape virtually every aspect of our lives, spurring a fresh era of growth and prosperity and defining a new geography of progress.  Describes new consumption patterns, new assumptions about “ownership” less centered around houses and cars, new forms of infrastructure to speed movement of people and goods, and a radically changed economic landscape organized around megaregions.                    (ECONOMY * ECONOMIC CRISIS)

* Economic Policy Reforms 2010: Going for GrowthOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD Publishing, March 2010/249p.  Examines structural policy measures taken by governments in response to the economic crisis, evaluates their impacts on long-term economic growth, and identifies the most imperative reforms needed to strengthen recovery.  Also assesses policy reforms (in education, product market regulation, agriculture, tax and benefits, healthcare and labor market) implemented in OECD countries in the last five years to boost employment and labor productivity.  Finds that reforms are more incremental than radical in nature, and seldom address the thorniest issues. Three analytical chapters consider intergenerational social mobility, prudential regulation and competition in banking, and key policy changes and long-term prospects in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.                                                  (ECONOMY * ECONOMIC CRISIS)

* Free Trade Doesn’t Work: Why America Needs a TariffIan Fletcher (Adjunct Fellow, US Business and Industry Council, San Francisco).  Foreword by Edward Luttwak (author of Turbo-Capitalism, 1999).  Washington: US Business and Industry Council, Jan 2010/327p/$24.95 (Kindle edition, $17.06).  Theories that favor free trade tend to be mathematically neat, mostly because they assume markets are perfectly efficient; thus 93% of US economists in a 2003 survey favor free trade.  But the US trade deficit of $688 billion in 2008—about 5% of GDP—is not healthy.  The US should seek strategic, not unconditional, economic integration with the rest of the world.  “Fairly open trade, most of the time, is justified.  Absolutely free trade, 100% of the time, is an extremist position.”  Chapters discuss the bad arguments for free trade (e.g. it is somehow inevitable, we live in a borderless global economy, etc.), America’s recent rise in income inequality (perhaps 25% is due to freer trade), trade solutions that won’t work (productivity growth, postindustrialism, currency revaluation), critiques of free trade to avoid (low foreign labor standards, race to the bottom), seven key flaws in the false theory of comparative advantage (trade is sustainable, there are no externalities, etc.), the negligible benefits of free trade, America’s neglect of industrial policy, and “the natural strategic tariff” that is “infinitely better than free trade” (it creates the right balance of special-interest pressures and should be in the 25-35% range, rather than something trivial like 2% or prohibitive like 150%).  A possible trigger for the final breakdown of free trade is global warming: “the rationale for imposing tariffs on nations that fail to adequately control pollution is absolutely impeccable.” [NOTE: A clearly-written and well-argued assault on many conventional assumptions of outdated economists, with a bibliography of some 500 items.]
(GLOBAL ECONOMY * ECONOMY * FREE TRADE QUESTIONED * TARIFF POLICY)
 
** Macroeconomics in ContextNeva Goodwin, Julie A. Nelson, and Jonathan Harris (all Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts U).  Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2009/437p.  An introductory textbook covering both standard topics and the broader contextual approach.  Topics include macroeconomic goals (decent living standards, security, sustainability), macroeconomics in global context for the 21C, economic tradeoffs, the three sphere of economic activity (the core sphere of households and community, the public purpose sphere, the business sphere), macroeconomic measurement (GDP vs. environmental and social dimensions reflecting 21C concerns), employment and unemployment, fiscal and monetary policy, pros and cons of “free trade,” how economies grow and develop, and macroeconomic challenges for the 21C (human development, ecological sustainability, problems of discounting the future). 
(ECONOMY * CONTEXTUAL ECONOMICS * MACROECONOMICS IN CONTEXT)
 
** Microeconomics in Context (Second Edition)Neva Goodwin (co-director, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts U), Julie A. Nelson (GDAE), Frank Ackerman (GDAE), and Thomas Weisskopf (Prof of Economics, U of Michigan).  Armonk NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2009/522p.  A companion textbook to the above that encourages engaged and critical thinking about topics in economics, with a focus on human well-being and the broader context of economic activity.  Topics include the spheres of economic activity, economic actors, market institutions, the five forms of capital (natural, manufactured, human, social, financial), production costs, distribution, consumption, markets for labor and other resources, and “free market” economics vs. “contextual economics” illustrated herein.
 (ECONOMY * CONTEXTUAL ECONOMICS * MICROECONOMICS IN CONTEXT)
 
** Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (With a New Afterword). Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobel Prize winner, Prof of Economics, Columbia U). NY: W. W. Norton, Oct 2010/ 400p/$16.95pb.[See review at GFB Book of the Month for March 2010.  The paperbound edition adds 39 pages to the 361 h.c. edition.]
(ECONOMIC CRISIS * WORLD ECONOMY * ECONOMY)

** Cents and Sustainability: Securing Our Common Future by Decoupling Economic Growth from Environmental PressuresMichael H. Smith (Australian National U; Co-Founder, The Natural Edge Project), Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves (Director, TNEP), and Cheryl Desha (Deputy Directory, TNRP).  Intro by Jim MacNeill.  Forewords by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Rajendra Pachauri, and Jeffrey Sachs.  London & Sterling VA: Earthscan, Sept 2010/405p/$39.95.  In the 1987 Bruntland Commission report, Our Common Future, a new era of sustainable economic growth was advocated.  New research allows a deeper understanding of how, and under what conditions, this “forceful sustainable growth” is possible.  Chapter topics: securing “Our Common Future,” decoupling explained, factors that undermine or block decoupling, national strategies for decoupling, facing the unprecedented challenges of climate change, and decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, freshwater extraction, waste production, and air pollution. [NOTE:  Sophisticated and leading edge.  Smith, Hargroves and Desha are co-authors of Factor Five (Earthscan, 2009), and Whole System Design (Earthscan, 2008).]                                                                          (THE NATURAL EDGE PROJECT * SUSTAINABILITY * ECONOMIC GROWTH AND SUSTAINABILITY * ECONOMY * ENVIRONMENT)

 

* The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?  Ian Bremmer (president, Eurasia Group risk consultancy).  NY: Portfolio (Penguin Group), May 2010/221p/$26.95 (e-Book, $12.99).  Details the growing phenomenon of state capitalism, where governments drive local economies through ownership of market-dominant companies and large pools of excess capital.  China has become the global model, boosted by the recent financial crisis.  Other nations using state companies to shore up power at home include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.  This new hybrid has led to a changing balance of power between the state and the market.   This trend threatens America’s competitive edge, the conduct of free markets everywhere, and the entire global economy.  [Also see interview with Bremmer (The Futurist, May-June 2010, 29-31) and The Beijing Consensus by Stefan Halper (Basic Books, 2010).] 
 (STATE CAPITALISM * CHINA * GLOBAL ECONOMY * BUSINESS)

** Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications (Second Edition)Herman E. Daly (Prof of Economics, U of Maryland) and Joshua Farley (Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, U of Vermont).  Washington: Island Press, April 2010/488p/$75.  First published in 2004 (FS *25:12/579), this new edition provides an introduction to a new “transdiscipline” that incorporates insights from the biological, physical, and social sciences, focusing on linkages between economic growth, environmental degradation, and social inequity.  Offers extensive critique of industrial-era academic economics that fails to value natural resources.      (SUSTAINABILITY ECONOMICS; ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS)

 

** Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future.   Committee on the Fiscal Future of the United States (co-chairs: John L. Palmer of Syracuse U and Rudolph G. Penner of Urban Institute). National Academies Press, Jan 2010/334p/$52.95pb (free 31p PDF summary; www.nap.edu). The US government currently spends far more than it collects in revenues, and will do so for the foreseeable future if current policies continue. Rapid growth of spending for Medicare and Medicaid is the largest part of the long-term fiscal challenge, although the challenge of Social Security is still substantial. The national debt was about 40% of GDP just 2 years ago, and is now “above 50% and rising rapidly.” The Committee judged that a debt of 60% of GDP is an appropriate balance and an achievable target within a decade. Four illustrative paths show available policy choices to 2040 and beyond, none of them easy: 1) Low Spending and Revenue: revenues held near their recent average of 18-19% of GDP, with spending 2-3% higher than revenues); 2) High Spending and Revenues: spending reaches one-third of GDP; 3) Intermediate Path 1: spending and revenues rise to about one-fourth of GDP, with spending on the elderly constrained; 4) Intermediate Path 2: spending and revenues rise to a little more than one-fourth of GDP.
(GOVERNMENT SPENDING: U.S. * FISCAL FUTURE OF U.S.)
 
Poverty and Poverty Alleviation Strategies in North America. Edited by Mary Jo Bane (Prof of Public Policy, Harvard U) and Rene Zentero (Prof of Sociology, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Tijuana). Cambridge: David Rockefeller Center (dist. by Harvard UP), Oct 2009/300p/$29.95pb. A dialogue about poverty in Mexico and the US and alternative responses, focusing on three policy areas: macroeconomic policy, education policy, and safety nets.                                                      (POVERTY * MEXICO)
 
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