Review: ‘Leftover Women’ may hinder China’s growth

June 20, 2014

Women’s rights have suffered from China’s fixation on social harmony, says Leta Hong Fincher in a new book. She exposes an injustice, but that’s not enough to force change. What might is the threat of a slowing economy.

Review: “House of Debt” diagnosis beats remedies

June 13, 2014

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi make a compelling case that excess consumer debt caused the U.S. Great Recession’s severity, but their mortgage bailout proposal would make matters worse. Their shared value mortgages might help, but old-fashioned tight money is a simpler and better way.

Review: China gives Africa handy investment lesson

June 6, 2014

Howard French’s new book paints an unflattering picture of the PRC’s heavy involvement in Africa. But China’s presence is not all bad. At a minimum, it gives African governments and businesses a benchmark for other offers now that the continent is attracting Western interest too.

Piketty spreadsheets set bad Excel example

May 27, 2014

Authors who submit data to scrutiny deserve applause. The Financial Times’ critique of the French economist’s work shows it’s also risky. In a broad study, errors are almost inevitable. But Piketty could have helped himself – and the dismal science – with better Excel etiquette.

Review: The UK’s EU choice is safety or adventure

May 2, 2014

Should the UK leave the EU? Hugo Dixon, founder of Breakingviews, answers “The In/Out Question” with a firm “no.” He is mostly persuasive, at least for the short term. But he exaggerates potential British influence inside the EU - and may be too grim about Britain’s fate outside.

Review: India’s Singh wasn’t king, Modi could be

April 25, 2014

Sanjaya Baru’s “The Accidental Prime Minister” is an insider’s account of how Sonia Gandhi defanged the reformist Manmohan Singh. The ensuing gloom, though, could spell glory for Narendra Modi, who will want to vest more power in India’s top job. That’s also what investors want.

Review: Hustling helps Africa’s partial success

April 17, 2014

Dayo Olopade’s “The Bright Continent” describes “kanju,” the hustling, striving and rule-breaking that make modern Africa work. The canny invisible hand can outwit the dead hand of corrupt bureaucracy. Sadly kanju makes the continent a tough place to do fully organized business.

Review: Keynes, Hayek, and the power of small

January 13, 2012

It was the clash that defined modern economics, says Nicholas Wapshott. Macroeconomic policymaking is still largely an argument between simplified versions of Keynes and Hayek. Often forgotten, then and now, are the powerful micro-forces at the base of the money-making pyramid.

Review: Free will, shopping and bad habits

March 2, 2012

We have free will, but less than we think - unconscious routines fill our lives. Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” taps brain science to explore the ramifications of this, both hopeful and sinister. We can  change habits, as people and groups. But habits destroy, too.

Review: Bank of England exposed, but not decoded

March 9, 2012

The central bank is as powerful as at any time in its 318-year history, yet remains stubbornly opaque. Dan Conaghan’s “The Bank” attempts to chart its recent history. Though far from definitive, the book is the best available guide to an increasingly important institution.