Review (Guest): Pay Any Price – Greed, Power, and Endless War

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James Risen

5.0 out of 5 stars Better Than His Last One – Imagine What He’ll Write From Prison, October 14, 2014

By David Swanson

When New York Times report James Risen published his previous book, State of War, the Times ended its delay of over a year and published his article on warrantless spying rather than be scooped by the book. The Times claimed it hadn’t wanted to influence the 2004 presidential election by informing the public of what the President was doing. But this week a Times editor said on 60 Minutes that the White House had warned him that a terrorist attack on the United States would be blamed on the Times if one followed publication — so it may be that the Times’ claim of contempt for democracy was a cover story for fear and patriotism. The Times never did report various other important stories in Risen’s book.

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Oct 21

Review: Billionaires – Reflections on the Upper Crust

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Darrell M. West

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb overview, illuminates not just the negatives, but the positives as well, October 5, 2014

I bought this book in part because I have noticed a number of billionaires giving away $100 million to $500 million “chunks” to universities and non-profits that in my view are perpetuating what Rusell Ackoff would call “doing the wrong things righter;” in part because I myself am looking for someone to fund a School of Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance and a World Brain Institute; and in part because I have been utterly fascinated to see the 1% breaking ranks in the last three months, with a few of them, notably the Mars Family in the USA (Mutuality Economics), a few black sheep billionaires on the West Coast (Redemptive Economics) and Lady Rothschild in London (Inclusive Economics), all realizing that 100% corrupt governments are not working as they anticipated.

For me, this ia five star work. Certainly more can be done in this area, but in terms of researched detail and a coherent construct for the book over-all, I find nothing lacking.

The central focus of the book is not on the fact that the 1% have achieved their goal of assuring 100% corrupt governments (the USA and the UK being right at the top of that list) but rather on illuminating how the 1% have “pioneered new activist models of political involvement that combine electioneering, issue advocacy, and [directed] philanthropy.” What this means is that the super-rich are controlling not just the media, but state and local government, university departments and secondary school curricula, and most civil society discourse.

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Oct 5

Review: Creating a Learning Society

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Joseph Stiglitz, Bruce Greenwald

4.0 out of 5 stars Glass Half Full — Cannot Be Ignored But Also Off the Rails, September 4, 2014

Among all economists in the English language, I hold Joseph Stiglitz to be among the most enlightened and virtuous. When I formed a “dream” coalition cabinet in 2012, he was on it. His co-author is of less interest to me — finance geeks have been demonstrably impotent these past fifty years — and particularly those who fall prey to mathematical formulas lacking in social integrity — and I believe with book would have been stronger had Stiglitz either gone it alone, or collaborated with an educator such as Derek Bok. The book is also rooted in old lectures, starting in 2008, and it is focused on Kenneth Arrow’s work, which is best appreciated on its own merits. See, for example:

Moral Hazard in Health Insurance (Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series)
The Limits of Organization (Fels Lectures on Public Policy Analysis)
General Competitive Analysis, Volume 12 (Advanced Textbooks in Economics)

The weakest point of this book, which does indeed have much to offer for anyone who cares about the future of academia, commerce, governance, and society, is that is “assumes” integrity on the part of the government, and that industrial policies are somehow going to corrupt deep ethical and intellectual failings across all major forms of organization (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit). This is the same mistake made by Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update and the Club of Rome. The *losing* alternative to the Limits to Growth assumption that top-down government would deal responsibly with climate change and other high level threats focused instead on education from the bottom up — the central point of Will Durant’s 1919 doctoral thesis, now available as Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition.

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Sep 4

Review (Guest): Innovation Economics

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Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell

4.0 out of 5 stars Pragmatism, Not Ideology, Key to Remaining in Pole Position in the Innovation Race, November 4, 2012

Serge J. Van Steenkiste

Robert Atkinson and Stephen Ezell systematically challenge the ideological tenets of the dysfunctional Washington Economic Consensus that the U.S. economic elites cherish (pp. 54-56; 73-74; 78-80; 82-84; 93; 231-232; 250; 360; 363-364). Messrs. Atkinson and Ezell convincingly demonstrate that the U.S. is losing the innovation race by making the same mistakes that the United Kingdom made during its dramatic industrial decline from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s. The outcome of this decline has been trifold: 1) a decline in real manufacturing output as a share of gross domestic product, 2) the emergence of chronic trade deficits, and 3) slower per capita economic growth than most comparable nations over a sustained period of time (pp. 9; 32-56; 57-84; 360).

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Aug 3

Review (Guest): Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis – Parasitic Finance Capital

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Ismael Hossein-azdeh

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Hossein-zadeh, Ismael. 2014. Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital., May 16, 2014

By Isaac Christiansen

Ismael Hossein-zadeh has done a masterful job in explaining the causes of the 2007-08 financial collapse and in identifying what must be done in response. He sets out in Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis to first demonstrate the origins of the crisis and the subsequent transfer of “tens of trillions” of dollars from the vast majority of society into the coffers of the financial speculators through the imposition of austerity cuts on the many for the benefit of the few; and secondly to examine potential societal responses to avoid the repetition of such crises in the future. To do this, he begins by examining the two most prominent explanations for the crisis: the neoliberal explanation, which claimed it was due to irrational market actors and/or intrusive government policies that interfered with the self-correcting market mechanism; and the Keynesian explanation, which explained the crisis as the result of excessive deregulation, “inappropriate” public policy and supply side strategies. The author skillfully exposes the weaknesses of both and offers a compelling and well grounded alternative explanation, as indicated in the book’s title.

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Jun 16

Review: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

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Elinor Ostrom

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014

I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.

On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.

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May 28

Review: STOP, THIEF! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance

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Peter Linebaugh

5.0 out of 5 stars David Bollier’s Review is Better, This Is My Attempt, April 21, 2014

I was very impressed by David Bollier’s review of this book at his web site (look for < “Stop, Thief!” – Peter Linebaugh’s New Collection of Essays > and am encouraging him to port that excellent review here to Amazon. Indeed, after working my way through the book myself, I consider myself unable to do proper justice to this deep work that integrates history, poetry, political economy, anthropology, and sociology among other disciplines. Hence I hope others will write substantive summary reviews and I again recommend Bollier’s review above.

Three thoughts keep recurring as I went through this book of original current essays and presentations:

01 Holy Cow. This guy is DEEP and BROAD in terms of arcane as well as popular sources, delving down into little known poems, essays, public statements, etcetera. This book is the one book version of the Durant’s Story of Civilization applied to one topic, the commons.

02 Holy Cow. This is what my top political science professor was trying to explain when I was in college in 1970-1974 – yes, a half century ago — and I was just not smart enough, patient enough, to appreciate it.

03 Holy Cow. This book is not just subversive, it does a magnificent job of head slapping every politician, economists, talking head, and other pretender who presumes to talk about public welfare without for one instant understanding that wages are a form of slavery and disconnection of humanity from everything else. Lionel Tiger makes related points in The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System but this book — if you focus and do not get lost in the poetry and minutia of exemplar citation — beats the commons versus capitalism drum along every possible note on the musical scale.

Among my high-level notes:

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Apr 29