Book Summaries: Finance & Economics

Finance and economics books summarised in one paragraph. Follow the links to see more detailed book notes and related articles from the blog.

Anatomy of the State - By Murray N. Rothbard

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Murray N. Rothbard was an economist from the Austrian School and is considered one of the leading figures of the libertarian movement of the 20th century. In Anatomy of the State, Rothbard sets out his views on the role of the State in societies, how the State preserves its power and transcends its limits, how States relate internationally, and the historical context of State power vs. social power. The central conclusion of this short text is that the State serves to seize wealth, distort incentives and monopolize the use of force, undermining the long-term prosperity of citizens.

The Bitcoin Standard - By Saifedean Ammous

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In 2008, a pseudonymous programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto introduced a new “purely peer-to-peer form of electronic cash” called Bitcoin. In The Bitcoin Standard, Saifedean Ammous provides an overview of the failings of humanity’s previous choices of money, and makes the case for Bitcoin as the world’s first truly immutable, decentralised and sound money. Ammous argues that Bitcoin meets all the salability criteria upon which previous forms of money, from commodity money to government money, have failed: it is divisible, transportable and a store of value. But most importantly, it is sovereign digital money free from the dangers of government meddling.

The Communist Manifesto - By Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

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While at Hustle Escape we believe that significant government intervention and distortion of incentives inevitably lead to economic, moral and humanitarian destruction, it is important to understand the opposing perspectives. Perhaps the most extreme opposing view on this spectrum is communism, a position set out in The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Published in 1848, Marx and Engels argued that the capitalist system ultimately divides society into two classes: the bourgeois (those who control the means of production) and the proletarians (wage workers). As the exploitation of the proletarians increases, they argue this system is doomed to failure. In its place, they recommend the introduction of communism, a system that does away with private property rights and centralises the allocation of resources with the State.

The Creature from Jekyll Island - By G. Edward Griffin

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In 1910, a small group of individuals that made up over a quarter of the world’s wealth met and gathered on a small island off the coast of Brunswick to agree the blueprint for the Federal Reserve. In The Creature from Jekyll Island, Edward Griffin forensically set outs the dangers of the Federal Reserve, fiat money and the fractional-reserve banking system. Through its capacity to create money from nothing, Griffin argues that the Federal Reserve is not only incapable of achieving its stated objectives, but instead creates economic instability, encourages war, and ultimately acts as an instrument of totalitarianism.

Currency Wars - By James Rickards

Paper Book Summary

Written in 2011 after the Great Financial Crisis, Currency Wars argues that the competitive devaluation of currencies is not just an economic issue but a grave national security issue. By embarking on quantitative easing from 2008, the Federal Reserve started a currency war and now risks exposing the dollar to a serious collapse. Rickards argues that this error of judgement has been driven by a reliance on outdated economic schools of thought that fail to acknowledge the complexity of our capital and currency markets. Without a rethink and a return to sound principles of money, the result may be a serious financial collapse.

The Deficit Myth - By Stephanie Kelton

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The Deficit Myth is an introduction to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a controversial economic school of thought that is growing in popularity. It seeks to explain why for countries with monetary sovereignty the federal budget is fundamentally different to the household budget, and why deficits are generally good for the economy. Instead of focusing on self-imposed budget constraints, Kelton suggests we should instead use inflation and real resource limits as the measuring stick for public spending.

The Fourth Turning - By Neil Howe and William Strauss

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In The Fourth Turning, Neil Howe and William Strauss argue that history follows a clear and predictable cycle. Each cycle lasts around a lifetime and consists of four seasons (turnings), each marked by a profound shift in the national mood and culture. This lifecycle of four seasons is made inevitable by four generational archetypes and their order, which they argue has recurred throughout modernity. The book was written in 1997, at which point the authors suggested we were approaching the Fourth Turning: a lifechanging period of crisis that marks every saeculum.

The Great Taking - By David Rogers Webb

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The Great Taking by David Rogers Webb aims to explain what he calls “the end game of a globally synchronous debt accumulation super cycle”, whereby central banks will take collateral from people on a scale of the likes never seen before in history. This great taking will encompass securities, bank deposits and private property financed with any amount of debt. Webb suggests that the foundations of this plan have come about through private control of central banks in the hands of very few people, permitting control of political parties, militaries, corporations and nations. The execution of this plan has involved long-term changes to legislation and regulation, and will be facilitated by new innovations that consolidate central bank power and control. Webb believes that our current economic circumstances set the stage for this great taking, beginning with the bursting of our unprecedented “Everything Bubble”.

How to Own the World - By Andrew Craig

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Since 2008, we have faced a paradigm shift in finance and economics. The rate of change is only likely to accelerate over the coming years. This book outlines Craig’s perspective on the optimal investment strategy to capitalise on these changes. Looking at some of the recent trends, Craig explains how any everyday investor can – and should – develop a portfolio of investments that seeks to “own the world” and “own inflation”.

Related Article: Hedging Chaos: The Case for Investing in Gold

The Mainspring of Human Progress - By Henry Grady Weaver

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Throughout history, the greatest leaps forward in economic prosperity have taken place under conditions of freedom and personal responsibility. The opposite is true of societies that have fallen into the trap of pagan fatalism, assuming a single authority can manage human energies and resource allocation for the “social good”. In The Mainspring of Human Progress, Henry Grady Weaver provides a historical and theoretical case for the power of individualism and free enterprise.

Megathreats - By Nouriel Roubini

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Having foreseen the 2008 financial crisis, Nouriel Roubini now believes we are on the precipice of 10 “megathreats”, characterised by deep instability, conflict, and chaos. While from one recent generation to the next we have seen immense uplifts in prosperity, Roubini argues that this trend is about to come to a shuddering halt due to the coalescence of these new megathreats. From economic threats, like our debt burden and easy money trap, to geopolitical threats and environmental threats, each threat risks reinforcing the others. A Great Stagflationary Debt Crisis is upon us, which can only be avoided with immediate action, but as Roubini highlights, this is not the only crisis on our doorstep. As Roubini puts it, “Change is coming, like it or not. The megathreats we face will reshape our world. If you want to survive, do not been taken by surprise.”.

The Price of Tomorrow - By Jeff Booth

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Technology is progressing at an unprecedented rate, with unprecedented implications for our lives and livelihoods. In The Price of Tomorrow, Jeff Booth explores how our current economic systems are built on the basis of debt and inflation, but will soon confront an unstoppable force of deflation from new technologies. Rather than fight this force by dividing our societies further through currency debasement and further debt, Booth suggests we need a reset in our approach.

Rich Dad Poor Dad - By Robert Kiyosaki

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Growing up, Robert Kiyosaki had a rich dad (his best friend’s dad) and a poor dad (his real dad). His poor dad did everything the way most of us are taught to do it. He got an education at university, he secured a stable, well-paid job, worked hard, got a mortgage, and so on. His rich dad, on the other hand, didn’t follow the usual path. He started small and focused on building income-generating assets, he used legal corporations to reduce his tax liability, he paid himself first. In Rich Dad Poor Dad, Kiyosaki outlines the key lessons he learnt from his rich dad so he could avoid his poor dad’s financial fate. The book has become one of the best-selling personal finance books in history.

The Richest Man in Babylon - By George S. Clason

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Written in 1926, The Richest Man in Babylon is a book of timeless personal finance principles, told in the form of short stories based on the “Babylonian parables”. At its height, Babylon was the wealthiest city in the world, which Clason attributes to the relationship its people had with money. The book uses stories of characters from Babylon to illustrate the importance of our relationship with money and the basic principles for acquiring, keeping and earning money.

Related Article: Compound Interest: When Your Gains Feed Your Gains

The Rise of the Robots - By Martin Ford

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Martin Ford sets out why he believes new technologies will ultimately push us towards a world economy that is less labour-intensive. Without the right policy response, Ford suggests we will confront a grave economic and human cost.

Related Article: Finally, the Open-Plan Office Is Dead (Almost)

The Road to Serfdom - By Friedrich Hayek

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The Road to Serfdom is the seminal work of Friedrich Hayek, a British-Austrian economist and philosopher regarded as one of the leading classical liberal thinkers of the 20th century. The book contends that socialist ideals can ultimately only be achieved by totalitarian means. Written during World War II, Hayek reflects on the patterns of socialism which led to Nazism, the illusion of democratic socialism and how early signs in other parts of the western world warned at a similar trajectory.

Related Article: Why Financial Independence Is More Important Than Ever

Think and Grow Rich - By Napoleon Hill

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First published during the Great Depression in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is considered a classic in the field of personal development and self-improvement. The book is not exclusively about personal finance. Instead, its central focus is 13 principles which Hill believed were the key to the accumulation of riches and success in any field.