New Economics Books Cover China, Wheat, Equality, and the Dollar – IMF Blog

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By Jeff Kearns

In the midst of war and inflation, debt and fragmentation, now is perhaps a better time than ever to step back and examine the larger and more enduring questions of life and livelihoods. .

The authors, from Cambridge economist Diane Coyle to Bank of Japan veteran Masaaki Shirakawa, have provided more than enough reason to put our phones down and focus, as much as possible, on absorbing the bigger lessons from the main thinkers.

Below is a selection of noteworthy books, drawn from books recently reviewed in the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine.

A brief history of equality

Thomas PiquettyThe surprisingly optimistic account of progress towards equality shows that societies have moved towards measurable improvements in the quality of life and a more equitable distribution of income and assets, but new solutions will be needed to address current inequalities. His proposed solutions include a return to greater tax progressivity: significantly higher income tax rates for high earners, a global wealth tax for the well-to-do, basic income programs and the cancellation of debts.


Ocean of Grains book cover

Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World

Scott ReynoldsNelson from the University of Georgia argues that wheat plays a key role in the rise and fall of empires. The book is a financial story, and the best passages relate to international commodity markets increasingly tied to wheat.


The United States against China: the quest for global economic leadership

C. Fred Bergsten , founder of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, writes that the United States will inevitably have to share global economic leadership with China. He rejects as fanciful notions such as “containing” China or persuading it to adopt Western views. The pertinent question is what form shared leadership can take.


The Global Monetary Power of the US Dollar: Issues and Prospects

The US dollar continues to play a dominant role in the global financial system, with huge implications for US monetary policy. Anthony Elsona former IMF economist, explores the reasons for this phenomenon and the prospects for the future, tracing the historical roots of the widespread use of the dollar for trade and financial flows to the emergence of the United States as the first world economy after World War II.


Career and Family: A Century of Women’s Journey to Equity

from Harvard Claudia Goldin argues that American women have made extraordinary progress in the workplace over the past century. Most no longer have to choose between having a child or a job. University enrollment and graduation rates for women exceed those for men. And the opportunities have expanded enough to give many women the chance not just of a job, but of a career.


Book cover of Three Days at Camp David

Three Days at Camp David: How a Secret Meeting in 1971 Transformed the Global Economy

Jeffrey E. Garten from the Yale School of Management details President Richard Nixon’s decision in 1971 to close the “golden window,” recounting how he transformed the mainstream narrative about it: from a my culpa who recognized America’s lax policy and abrogation of its international responsibilities, to one who proclaimed a triumphant new beginning for its place in the world, which pleased its domestic audience.


Harry White and the American CreedHarry White and the American Creed: How a Federal Bureaucrat Created the Modern Global Economy (and Failed to Get Credit for It)

Bronze busts of John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White stand on pedestals in the antechamber of the IMF’s Executive Board. While countless books and biographies have been written about the former, much less is known about the latter. Former IMF Historian James M. Boughton corrects this imbalance in his superb biography of White.


Cogs and Monsters book coverCogs and Monsters: What the economy is and what it should be

Cambridge Economist Diane Coyle examines how upheavals from the global financial crisis to the pandemic have cast doubt on previous beliefs and fueled existing skepticism about capitalism and economics more broadly. She also describes what plagues the profession itself, including entrenched networks preventing new ideas, an aggressive debate culture, and a lack of gender and racial diversity.


Monetary policy in times of crisis

Monetary Politics in times of crisis: the two-decade story of the European Central Bank

ECB officials, including Massimo Rostagno, Chief Monetary Policy Officer, provide a masterful analysis of the challenges this fledgling institution faced during its first two crisis-prone decades and how it coped with a monetary union still in gestation. Most are familiar with President Mario Draghi’s saying “whatever it takes” in 2012, which dealt with the existential threat to the euro, but few will be aware of the early behind-the-scenes push for the creation of the European Stability Mechanism, which made its (never used) effective monetary securities transaction tool to resolve the Eurozone crisis.


The Future of Money book coverThe future of money: how the digital revolution is transforming currencies and finance

Among the many changes in today’s digital economy, disruption is also occurring in one of the most fundamental technologies: money itself. from Cornell University Eswar Prasad puts this in a larger context. He argues that despite all the digital innovation in finance over the past few decades, we are on the brink of what could be an even more dramatic shift, with broad social, economic and political implications.


Cover of the book where credit is due

Where the credit is due: how Africa’s debt can be a benefit, not a burden

Economist Gregory Smith describes an approach he calls “borrowing with a purpose” that links public borrowing to clear development strategies, better coordination among public creditors, more responsible and “virtuous” actions on the part of private creditors, and the flexibility of the “arbiters and architects” of the international system. Smith devotes a chapter to China’s loans to Africa, detailing its scale, terms, nature, objectives and risks, and discusses the country’s debt relief to African nations over the decades.


cover of the book tumultuous times Turbulent Times: Central Banking in Times of Crisis

Difficult economic circumstances shaped Masaaki Shirakawa‘s four decades at the Bank of Japan. The economic miracle faded, a bubble inflated and burst, and lost decades ensued. Shirakawa provides an insider’s account of central bank policies and candidly recounts interactions in government and parliament. He argues that the primary objective of the central bank is financial stability, even before price stability. This challenges the traditional view that price stability should be the main objective of monetary policy.

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