Best economics books of 2014: Fragile by Design
Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit, by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber
Why are banking systems unstable in so many countries–but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. The banking systems of Mexico and Brazil have not only been crisis prone but have provided miniscule amounts of credit to business enterprises and households. Analyzing the political and banking history of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil through several centuries, Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.
Best economics books of 2014: Microeconomics
Microeconomics: A Very Short Introduction, by Avinash Dixit
Microeconomics – individuals’ choices of where to live and work, how much to save, what to buy, and firms’ decisions about location, hiring, firing, and investment – involves issues that concern us on a daily basis. But when people think about economics, they tend to place importance on the bigger picture – macroeconomics – including issues such as unemployment, inflation, and the competitiveness of nations.
Best economics books of 2014: Political Order and Political Decay
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, David Gress called Francis Fukuyama’s Origins of Political Order “magisterial in its learning and admirably immodest in its ambition.” In The New York Times Book Review, Michael Lind described the book as “a major achievement by one of the leading public intellectuals of our time.” And in The Washington Post, Gerard DeGrott exclaimed “this is a book that will be remembered. Bring on volume two.”
Best economics books of 2014: Stress Test
Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy Geithner, Random House Business
As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and then as President Barack Obama’s secretary of the Treasury, Timothy F. Geithner helped the United States navigate the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, from boom to bust to rescue to recovery. In a candid, riveting, and historically illuminating memoir, he takes readers behind the scenes of the crisis, explaining the hard choices and politically unpalatable decisions he made to repair a broken financial system and prevent the collapse of the Main Street economy. This is the inside story of how a small group of policy makers—in a thick fog of uncertainty, with unimaginably high stakes—helped avoid a second depression but lost the American people doing it. Stress Test is also a valuable guide to how governments can better manage financial crises, because this one won’t be the last.
Best economics books of 2014: How to Speak Money
How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say–And What It Really Means, by John Lanchester
To those who don’t speak it, the language of money can seem impenetrable and its ideas too complex to grasp. In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester—author of the New York Times best-selling book on the financial crisis, I.O.U.—bridges the gap between the money people and the rest of us.
With characteristic wit and candor, Lanchester reveals how the world of finance really works: from the terms and conditions of your personal checking account to the evasions of bankers appearing in front of Congress. As Lanchester writes, we need to understand what the money people are talking about so that those who speak the language don’t just write the rules for themselves.
Best economics books of 2014: Thrive
Thrive: The Power of Evidence-based Psychological Therapies by Richard Layard
Britain has become a world leader in providing psychological therapies thanks to the work of Richard Layard and David Clark. But, even so, in Britain and worldwide the majority of people who need help still don’t get treatment. This is both unjust and a false economy.
Best economics books of 2014: European Spring
Britain and the rest of Europe are in a mess. Our economies are failing to deliver higher living standards for most people and many have lost faith in politicians’ ability to deliver a brighter future, with support for parties like UKIP soaring. Are stagnation, decline and disillusionment inevitable? Do people have to turn to the likes of UKIP for alternative solutions? As a critically acclaimed author who was until recently a senior policymaker, Philippe Legrain has a unique combination of insider knowledge, intellectual authority and independent perspective that make him ideally placed to explain why things have gone wrong – and how to put them right. In this brilliantly original and passionate book, he explains why we need a European Spring: economic and political renewal. ‘Philippe Legrain provides an original and insightful analysis of what has gone wrong with Europe’s economies and politics and a timely warning that the crisis ultimately threatens our open societies. Better still, he provides a blueprint for a brighter future and how to achieve it. ‘ George Soros
Best economics books of 2014: House of Debt
House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent it from Happening Again, by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi
The Great American Recession resulted in the loss of eight million jobs between 2007 and 2009. More than four million homes were lost to foreclosures. Is it a coincidence that the United States witnessed a dramatic rise in household debt in the years before the recession—that the total amount of debt for American households doubled between 2000 and 2007 to $14 trillion? Definitely not. Armed with clear and powerful evidence, Atif Mian and Amir Sufi reveal in House of Debt how the Great Recession and Great Depression, as well as the current economic malaise in Europe, were caused by a large run-up in household debt followed by a significantly large drop in household spending.
Best economics books of 2014: War! What is it Good for?
War! What is it Good for?: The Role of Conflict in Civilisation, from Primates to Robots, by Ian Morris
In War! What is it Good for? What Is It Good For?, the renowned historian and archaeologist Ian Morris tells the gruesome, gripping story of fifteen thousand years of war, going beyond the battles and brutality to reveal what war has really done to and for the world. Stone Age people lived in small, feuding societies and stood a one-in-ten or even one-in-five chance of dying violently. In the twentieth century, by contrast—despite two world wars, Hiroshima, and the Holocaust—fewer than one person in a hundred died violently. The explanation: War, and war alone, has created bigger, more complex