Review: No bets on Berkshire after Warren Buffett

October 31, 2014

Lawrence Cunningham’s “Berkshire Beyond Buffett” argues the Oracle of Omaha has built a corporate culture that will ensure success after his departure. The book does a good job of cataloging Buffett’s portfolio. But it doesn't make a strong enough case for investors to follow.

Review: World needs agreed ground rules for peace

October 24, 2014

Henry Kissinger’s “World Order” bemoans the lack of one, as the West’s prevailing approach of nation states with limited conflict isn’t reflected in non-Western traditions. However the Vienna Congress innovation allowing intervention only to protect stability might work better.

Review: The worst of both Mao and markets

October 17, 2014

Nicholas Lardy’s new book describes a China in which the state is retreating. He has the numbers to demonstrate the private sector’s steady gains, but official statistics are deeply misleading. In the PRC, the public-private line is blurred by the triumph of crony capitalism.

How Big Oil could grease invisible hand

September 22, 2014

“Pump” contends that democracy at the gas station would help U.S. democracy more broadly. Offering drivers fuel choices like ethanol, as Brazil did, might ease the grip of Exxon Mobil and its peers. The film makes a convincing case, even as it evades some inconvenient truths.

VC bigwigs reveal Valley’s contradictions

September 19, 2014

Peter Thiel’s new book sets out possible features of the next world-changing startup that will earn its founders a monopoly – another Google, say. Ben Horowitz’s focuses on running a tech company amid fierce competition. One is about vision, the other – for most people – reality.

Review: A pained call for radical financial reform

August 29, 2014

Financial Times writer Martin Wolf’s new book is partly a cogent review of what went wrong in the 2008 crisis. But the message economists and policymakers should focus on, especially from a centrist intellectual, is that the best ideas for the future are far from the mainstream.

Review: Paul Ryan changes delivery but not direction

August 22, 2014

“The Way Forward,” by the U.S. congressman and former VP candidate, is more campaign manifesto than memoir. Ryan’s rhetoric has softened but his harsh policy proposals haven’t. The title is accurate in at least one way. His austerity ideas probably will guide Republican strategy.

Review: Putting a face on China’s vague ambition

July 11, 2014

Many books about China strive for a sweeping overview. Evan Osnos’ “Age of Ambition” adopts a refreshingly human perspective. Despite some inevitable gaps, his close-up portraits of people in the People’s Republic are as revealing as a torrent of statistical superlatives.

Review: An American-Chinese morality tale

July 4, 2014

Stephen Roach presents the relations between the world’s two largest economies as a dangerous codependency. The former Morgan Stanley economist’s national parallels are not always persuasive. But his criticism of America’s irresponsible policymaking rings true.

Review: Rebooting banking – with Google’s help

June 27, 2014

Brett King’s account of how smartphones are changing retail banking suffers from an excess of acronyms and advertorial. Still, King explains how compliance costs make the emergence of an Amazon of banking unlikely, and how internet data can help banks provide better services.