Three books

It occurred to me that three of the books I’ve read this winter – while about very different subjects – have a bit of a common theme. Specifically: things are as bad as they seem. Or maybe worse.

Two of them have clear macroeconomic implications, and I’d argue that the third does as well.

The best of the lot was just published and is the one I haven’t quite finished: “The Lords of Easy Money: How the Fed Broke the American Economy” by Christopher Leonard. It gives the best breakdown I’ve seen of the thinking and personalities behind the free money boom since 2008, and confirms my suspicion that a) Thomas Hoenig is a Cassandra if not an outright hero and b) while this time it is actually a bit different, it’s not that different, and a reckoning awaits.

Next is “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” by Nicole Perlroth. We’re long past the Mutual Assured Destruction stage when it comes to state actors and cyberattacks on our communication/utility infrastructures, and there is no reason to think that these weapons over time won’t seep into the hands of more shadowy actors. No uranium refining or daunting engineering challenges here…

The third is “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy” by Adam Jentleson. It’s essentially two long essays. The first is the evolution of the Senate from the sober heads envisioned by Madison through Andrew Jackson, then Clay/Calhoun, Reconstruction, Civil Rights and LBJ (who in particular takes his lumps here). The second essay is the modern era of the current leadership. I won’t go further in the fear of having this tagged as political, but for anyone trying to read the tea leaves of what the US is currently capable of doing (or more accurately, not doing)- for the economy or much of anything else - it is useful inside baseball.

Anyhow, they each helped with my world view and largely confirmed my uneasiness of what the next few decades are most likely to look like. As I said, a bit of a common thread.

(they are also all depressing. My spring reading list needs to have some puppies and kittens in it, I think)