Book Bits: Six New Books, Including 'Strategies To Avoid Financial Regret'

● Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
Jordan Ellenberg
Essay by author via The Atlantic
The fact is, binary classifications such as “safe” and “not safe” mostly don’t exist in real life, and those who seek them may well be led astray. No government agency or Anthony Fauci lieutenant ever said you can’t catch the coronavirus from six feet and one inch away—six feet was always an arbitrary “good enough” standard established so that the grocery stores knew how far apart to put the shoe stickers on the floor. But many people nonetheless experienced the recommendation as a sharp-edged boundary: danger within the six-foot circle, safety outside. This kind of all-or-nothing thinking reached its absurd climax in high schools in Billings, Montana, last October. Responding to guidance that coronavirus transmission was a danger when students spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of one another, the schools introduced a new mitigation strategy: Everybody changes desks every 14 minutes.

● The Poor and the Plutocrats: From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich
Francis Teal
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
A decisive examination of inequality and its relationship to poverty and wealth, The Poor and the Plutocrats explores how we live in a world of very many poor people and a very few extremely rich ones – the poor and the plutocrats of the title. Globally the last twenty years have seen declines in inequality between countries and the fastest fall in the numbers of absolutely poor in history – those living on less than the World Bank extreme poverty line of US$1.90 per day. In parallel, inequality within some countries has increased markedly, particularly in the US and the UK.

 

● Raising Keynes: A Twenty-First-Century General Theory
Stephen Marglin
Summary via publisher (Harvard U. Press)
John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money was the most influential economic idea of the twentieth century. But, argues Stephen Marglin, its radical implications were obscured by Keynes’s lack of the mathematical tools necessary to argue convincingly that the problem was the market itself, as distinct from myriad sources of friction around its margins. Marglin fills in the theoretical gaps, revealing the deeper meaning of the General Theory. Drawing on eight decades of discussion and debate since the General Theory was published, as well as on his own research, Marglin substantiates Keynes’s intuition that there is no mechanism within a capitalist economy that ensures full employment. Even if deregulating the economy could make it more like the textbook ideal of perfect competition, this would not address the problem that Keynes identified: the potential inadequacy of aggregate demand.

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Disclosures: None.

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