I’ve been meaning to do reviews of a couple of books, but the task of writing my own book means that I need to get rid of distractions (of course, it also means I’m even more tempted by every distractoin that comes along). Anyway, I thought I’d just give a recommendation and very quick summary for two of them.

Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street by Kate Kelly has a self-explanatory title. At the time, the failure of Bear Stearns seemed sure to be the biggest financial event of 2008, if not the whole decade. A little over a year later, it’s still interesting to read a blow-by-blow account of the collapse. I doubt if we’ll ever get anything like this for the October meltdown – even with this isolated case, it’s a bit hard to keep track of the varied cast of characters.

Recovering the Lost Tongue is a fascinating story of environmental struggle in central India. The link is to Amazon, but there’s also an Indian edition (details here).

Finally, here’s a link to a review of The Spirit Level a book arguing that inequality is bad for (almost) everyon.

In which I agree with the IPA

John Roskam of the IPA in today’s Fin makes the correct opening point that the banks can’t have it both ways, benefitting from government guarantees while resisting close regulation. Since no one is suggesting removing the guarantees any time soon, the implications are, I think pretty obvious.


I gave two talks yesterday, one in Wollongong and one in Parramatta, about different aspects of the financial crisis. In both cases, my initial destination was the corner of Church and Market Streets and the person who had organised my trip was taken ill and couldn’t attend the talk. By this morning, I was a bit confused as to my location and status.

Brisbane Institute credibility down the tubes

For the last decade or so, the Brisbane Institute has played a prominent and constructive role in the intellectual life of this city. I’ve attended, and sometimes spoken at, quite a few of its functions. But I just got the news that the Institute is presenting a piece billed as an attack on Al Gore and presented by Jay Lehr of the US based Heartland Institute.

Even judged against the low bar set by climate delusionists in general, the Heartland Institute is a disgrace. Its most notable achievement was the publication of a list purporting to be of scientists whose work contradicted mainstream climate science. Such lists, common in the delusionists attempts to deny that they are pushing fringe science, usually contain large numbers of name with few or no relevant qualifications. The Heartland list was different. It contained the names of lots of genuine scientists, but misrepresented their position. Even when scientists protested against this misrepresentation, Heartland refused to take their names off the list on the basis that they (a bunch of rightwing hacks with no qualifications whatsoever) were better placed to interpret the results of scientific research than were the authors of that research.

The Heartland Institute has no legitimate place in public life and anyone who works for or with it brands themselves as a charlatan. It is to be hoped that the Brisbane Institute’s decision to promote Heartland’s lies is the result of a negligent failure to check on the credibility of their speakers rather than a decision to legitimise this body. Still, I suspect it will be a while before I am willing to work any more with them.

(Hat tip: Mike Smith)

Bookblogging: The rise of the EMH

A bit more from my book-in-progress. I’m currently toying with the title Zombie Economics: Seven Economic Ideas that Aren’t Dead but Should Be. As always, I’m keen to get suggestions on this, and on improvements to the text. I’m particularly happy to have putative errors pointed out. If I agree with you about the error that saves me from putting it in print. If not, it will be a point I need to anticipate and respond to.

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