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from Breakingviews:

VC bigwigs reveal Valley’s contradictions

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

A venture capitalist who can co-opt the opening lines of “Anna Karenina” to make a business point deserves attention. In Peter Thiel’s case, he also started PayPal and Palantir Technologies and invested early on in Facebook. His new book, “Zero to One,” describes possible features of the next peerless, world-changing startup – another Google, say.

In contrast, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz, who cofounded a hugely successful venture capital firm with Marc Andreessen, majors on how to run a technology company when competition is fierce. The two books both bring a mix of new and old perspectives on Silicon Valley and all its contradictions, usually with commendable clarity.

Thiel’s title gets at the difference between incremental change, from one to two or three, and true innovation – creating something from nothing. “Positively defined,” he says, “a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future.” Thiel worries that the legacy of the last dot-com bust has led many entrepreneurs to stick to incremental changes, copycat ideas and caution when big ideas and boldness are the keys to real progress – and riches.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Paul Ryan changes delivery but not direction

By Stephanie Rogan

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. 

Paul Ryan has written a book, just like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama before him. Unlike those of his Democratic rivals, though, the U.S. congressman and former vice presidential candidate’s is less memoir than campaign manifesto. Ryan’s fiscal prescriptions are familiar, but it’s also obvious he is trying to find a broader audience for them. Though it’s tempting to dismiss “The Way Forward” as just the musings of another presidential wannabe, the book’s title probably accurately reflects the notion that its contents will guide the Republican strategy in the years to come.

from Breakingviews:

Review: “House of Debt” diagnosis beats remedies

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi are better at diagnosis than cure. In their book, “House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again,” the two professors make a compelling case that excess consumer debt caused the severity of the U.S. Great Recession. Unfortunately their mortgage bailout proposal would worsen future such problems. Another idea, shared value mortgages, might work partially – but tighter monetary policy would work better still.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Brazil’s toughest tests lie off the pitch

By Dominic Elliott 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Michael Reid’s astute new book has a stark warning: the country of samba, sex and soccer is teetering on a knife-edge. “Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power” explains why protests against this year’s World Cup are turning increasingly violent. Reid, a journalist for The Economist, persuasively urges a return to the broad liberal consensus that served Brazil so well between 1994 and 2006.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Hustling helps Africa’s partial success

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

“Kanju” makes modern Africa work. In her new book “The Bright Continent,” the American journalist Dayo Olopade claims that this Yoruba word for hustling, striving and rule-breaking explains how the invisible hand outwits the dead hand of corrupt bureaucracy in much of the continent. Sadly, kanju also makes most African countries tough places to do fully organized business.

from Breakingviews:

Review: An unreliable guide to inequality

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Thomas Piketty is set to become a star. “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” – the new book from the founder of the Paris School of Economics – has received gushing praise from the New York Times and the Economist, even before the official publication of the English translation next month. The massive production, 577 pages of text plus voluminous supporting material, posits that economic inequality is a major social problem which is likely to get worse. Piketty’s arguments, however, fail to persuade.

from Breakingviews:

Review: The puzzle of Fred Goodwin’s rise and fall

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Early in 2009, the British government was preparing to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland for the second time in four months. An emergency injection of capital in October 2008 had failed to shore up confidence. Now taxpayers were being asked to cover potential losses on almost 300 billion pounds of toxic RBS assets. Yet as the details of the rescue were finalised, British public opinion was in uproar over a much, much smaller sum: the 700,000 pound a year pension being paid to Fred Goodwin, the bank’s former chief executive.

from Breakingviews:

Review: A McKinsey-like assessment of McKinsey

By Jeffrey Goldfarb
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Understanding McKinsey is no easy feat. The doyen of management consulting firms is at once ubiquitous and mysterious. Its advice is coveted yet often misguided. Dysfunction, typical of any organization, belies McKinsey’s well-cultivated prestige. “The Firm,” a new book by journalist Duff McDonald, goes a long way to unraveling some of these complexities in a highly readable history of the consigliere to the world.

Just how McKinsey managed over 80 years to gain access to so many executive suites and other corridors of power around the world is an impressive tale that starts, remarkably enough, in the corporate underbelly of accounting. James McKinsey transformed bookkeeping into budgeting and budgeting into strategy, laying the foundation for a new sort of practice that eventually would reshape industrial and government leadership.

from Breakingviews:

Review: How economics became the hijacked science

By Olaf Storbeck

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

There’s no lack of books on the shortcomings of mainstream economics. “Economists and the Powerful”, by Norbert Haering, a German financial journalist, and Niall Douglas, an Irish IT consultant, stands out from the crowd.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Haiti’s unreconstructed disaster story

It is three years since a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. A new book by Jonathan Katz suggests that the ensuing international aid effort gave the stricken the Caribbean country all possible assistance, short of actual help. He suggests, indeed, that the outsiders did more harm than good.

Haiti’s crisis plucked at the world’s heart strings. Bill Clinton, Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie were among the famous names who stepped up as advocates for the dispossessed. Katz reports that $16.3 billion, much from the United States, was donated. But the effort fell woefully short. “The world came to save Haiti and left behind a disaster”, he writes.

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