economics literature topic home

Beyond one's team and organization there's the big topic of business in general, tightly linked to the economy and also inevitably politics. As I grew older (in years and experience), I became more and more interested in these more broad and general topics. The following books helped me understand the connections and provided me with an explanation of why the world is as it is:

Maurice Höfgen, Teuer; die Wahrheit über Inflation, ihre Profiteure und das Versagen der Politik; after decades of low inflation, prices in Germany are on the rise again, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The author describes the root causes of inflation, and argues that it's caused by the scarcity of energy (and a fragile economy still recovering from the supply shocks of the pandemic), not by the money printing of the ECB. He argues that politics is in a much better position to affect prices (through temporary subsidies and remedy programs), whereas the central bank only has weak and sluggish instruments. Interest rate hikes directly affect the entire economy, but when food and energy prices rise, people still have to eat and heat their homes, so unrelated businesses (hairdressers, cinemas) suffer the most. While it's easy to agree with the analyses, the author's views (which clearly belong to MMT) on money printing are impossible for me to accept. In his crusade to disparage deflationary values like Bitcoin (which has no intrinsic value), the author includes a chart (on page 132) of its exchange rate, from Nov 2021..2022, showing 66% drop in value, on top of 10% inflation, conveniently omitting the triple-digit growth before (and again after) that period (that wasn't an anomaly but part of Bitcoin's regular 4-year halving cycle). He then goes on to ridicule crash prophets and criticizes the Bundesbank's gold reserves as out-of-date. That's one-sided ideology, not economic expertise! A quick read to sharpen your critical thinking and test your own understanding, but don't believe everything that's written in there (same goes for the opponents, and everything in life). dtv, 2023

Jeff Booth, The Price of Tomorrow; Why Deflation Is the Key to an Abundant Future; the author analyzes how the growing inequality is fueled by rising prices, and how those with assets (like houses or shares) profit much more than poor people, and contrasts that with deflation. His main thesis is that what we've so far only seen in cheap PCs and smartphones will soon revolutionize all aspects of our lives, as technology in the form of digitalization, artificial intelligence, and green energy. As these effects speed up, governments' previous attempts at controlling the economy will require even more intervention, and eventually prove fruitless; actual free-market capitalism is already dead and interventions by the federal reserve only provide mega-corporations, but socialist wealth transfers or universal basic income cannot scale when fewer and fewer people participate in the economy. Unfortunately, only seven pages at the very end are dedicated to the sketched "embrace deflation" solution, with the obvious huge gaps in argumentation. Even though it's easy to agree with the author on his good and even entertaining analyses, the end leaves a lot to be desired; I'd like to see a whole second book written about that; Stanley Press, 2020

Bodo Schäfer, Ein Hund namens Money; easy investment advice aimed at children, but first and foremost it attempts to teach responsible use of money by building trust in one's capabilities, looking for talents that can be used to earn money while having fun, and then shrewdly splitting the earnings into long-term savings, the fulfilment of crucial wishes, and casual consumption. The book is about a 12-year-old girl, her family, and a stray dog; in order to cover all aspects of financial advice, the story often feels contrived and exaggerated, but overall succeeds in getting the core messages across; dtv, 2019

Christian Stöcker, Das Experiment sind wir; In the past decades, many things have progressed increasingly, but humans are ill equipped to deal with exponential growth. The autor combines stories about the current state of artificial intelligence with the overall progress in computing, and how that affects the way we deal with information (and how large tech companies have exploited big data). DNA is a form of data, so the next big step may be in bioinformatics and medicine, but we'll also need to employ the technologies to attack climate change which (just like the pandemic during which the book was written in) is exceptionally hard for the human psyche to tackle. Great and easily accessible overview of the current state of technology and modern day's challenges; unfortunately, it can't provide the actual answers, only points into the direction we need to go; Blessing, 2020

Ulrich Wickert, Der Ehrliche ist der Dumme; Űber den Verlust der Werte; written with the background of the fall of communism, the author lists common cases of corruption and egoistic behavior in politics, the media, and private life; although dated, there are eerie parallels to today (Balkan wars and refugee crisis vs. Ukraine war today, privatized television then vs. social media now, political cynicism both now and then). As a journalist, most of this examples are centered around the media and politics. For me, the book is too much lamentation; there's only one suggestion at the end for a compulsory social year for everyone, but the author shirks from criticizing capitalism and our political system itself; Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, 1994

William Strauss and Neil Howe, The Fourth Turning; What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny; a fascinating book on the cyclical nature of human history, and how the once in a lifetime of almost any person there will be a major crisis and change of society. The authors have identified a pattern of four generations (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, Artist) that repeats in a cycle of about 80-100 years, and trace this back to the middle ages (Reformation, New World, Revolutionary War with England, American Civil war, World War II) to infer what and when the next crisis will happen (between 2005 and 2026). Ancient cultures (like native tribes and Romans) were much more in sync with these tides of history, whereas our modern society follows a linear outlook; the authors go to great lengths to motivate their findings (and do so very convincingly), and illustrate their theory from any imaginable perspective; this makes for anything but an easy read (more so if not well versed in American history and its main figures), but still worthwhile for the great potential impact, and astoundingly good predictions (financial crisis of 2007, Corona epidemic); Broadway Books, 1998

Greta Thunberg, The Climate Book; a collection of very readable essays (all between 1-6 pages) by scientists and activists that is grouped into five parts. It starts with a recap of what climate is and how CO₂ and Methane emissions have affected our planet; the great variety of authors makes these parts interesting for any reader, either filling gaps in existing knowledge or providing additional background and connections for those who already know the basics. Every few articles there's evocative photos and a short commentary by Greta herself, giving context and setting the stage for the next topics. This builds confidence in the quality of the selection (most authors are relatively unknown) and the professionalism, preempting possible allegations that the contents are catered towards the fringe group of hard-core climate activists only. There's a huge need for that as the middle part of the book turns gloomy and dire, summarizing the effects of climate change (already very visible, especially in developing nations) and what we've so far done about it (very little, with even our pledges falling short and many areas of pollution completely unaccounted for).
This part introduces two powerful messages that are still relatively unheard of in the public discourse: Within our current political framework, it's virtually impossible to commit to meaningful change within the next decade, as there's too much focus on gradual change and technological progress, but time has long run out for that due to 40+ years of collectively dragging our feet. The industrialized world (or "Global North"), through the climate conferences, wants all countries to commit to emissions reductions, but conveniently ignores that historically it has been the main benefactor of the past emissions; use of fossil fuels is on the same level as (or even another form of) colonialism. Greta argues that the fight against climate change needs to be seen and addressed within the fight against historic global injustices, and that the stewardship of indigenous tribes can help heal our capitalist view of nature.
The near-flawless selection of articles (though diverse, all are of similar quality, very understandable, and on message) presents a convincing case, leaving the reader desperate, even depressed towards the end of the book, because our Western lifestyle has been depending on cheap labor, extraction of natural resources, and fossil energy: crimes against nature and poor people that we've learned to blind out from our hectic lives of consumerism. And yet we're still fighting wind parks in front of our doorsteps and electing politicians that tell us we don't need to fundamentally change, that technological progress will save us. Despite all of this, Greta somehow manages to instill a glimmer of hope near the end of the book, by carefully distinguishing what individuals can do (less meat, flying, more activism) and where our (consumerist) society and (capitalist) system need to change. I would have loved to read details on how sustainable life could look for us (this might be an entire follow-up book), but I understand that concrete steps would only instill resistance, and that it's up to us and coming generations to actually design a better society. The radical message of system change is both frightening (this is unlike anything we or our parents have experienced so far) and liberating (recognizing that diverse global problems are interconnected and global warming may be what forces us to address them once and for all). This book can be our final wake-up call, or the Cassandra that predicted our demise as a species; Allen Lane, 2022

Saifedean Ammous, The FIAT Standard; as a follow-up to The Bitcoin Standard, this is a comparison to our current central bank-issued money system, seeing it as a competing technology (that is "mined" through issuance of debt by financial institutions) that clearly favors the controlling government and entities close to it. In a stroll through history, the author identifies several areas (architecture, food, science and education, fuels, international organizations) that have gotten worse since the Gold standard has been abolished; unfortunately, this part is greatly tainted by the personal beliefs of the author (advocating a meat-rich diet, denying climate change — all of those are highly personal opinions outside the author's competencies). The third part of the book moves towards Bitcoin and explains how the illustrated deficiencies of the fiat system can be fixed, and how this might turn out. Details on second-layer scaling and energy use are a welcome update of his earlier book, and leave the reader again bullish for Bitcoin; The Saif House, 2021

Michael Schwelien, Helmut Schmidt: Ein Leben für den Frieden; portrait of an important chancellor of Germany, and his willingness to stick to his personal convictions over party politics, and lead with unfaltering integrity and honesty, which likely was a result of his difficult youth in the midst of World War II; the author presents a balanced history of his personal life (heavily drawn from friends and his wife) and covers the important phases of his political career, with a special focus on the terrorist attacks of the "Deutscher Herbst"; Hoffmann und Campe, 2003

Thomas Wieczorek, Die rebellische Republik; Warum wir uns nicht mehr für dumm verkaufen lassen; historical report on civil unrest and nongovernmental organizations in West Germany, from the student revolts of '68 to the beginnings of the Green party (which the author deftly cricitizes for doing the exact opposite once in government — so true even today) from protests against nuclear energy and war, to unions and social groups' opposition against the unsocial Hartz reforms, and finally Stuttgart 21; nice historical background to better understand recent movements for climate change, the responses to the pandemic, and monetary policies; Knaur 2011

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics; various essays on incentives, the power of information, how the economic situation of drug dealers resembles a tournament or show biz, how legalization of abortion did more to combat crime than policing or prisons, the impact of parenting on children vs. genetic inheritance; amusing and entertaining, and just the weird jumble of various themes that was promised; Penguin Books, 2006

Ray Dalio, Principles for Dealing with The Changing World Order; Why Nations Succeed and Fail; based on his experience as a hedge fund manager, the author highlights various metrics (education, infrastructure, wealth gap, innovation, governance, etc.), the types of money (hard and fiat), and how states and empires have gone through large cycles (of 75-150 years, on top of the usual boom-and-bust cycles), with detailed and vivid historical examples of the Dutch, British, and US empires; his conclusion is that the US and the Western world is in decline and will soon be surpassed by upcoming China (but how soon that plays out and whether it will be violent is impossible to forecast); the difficult topic is made more amenable through many charts, summaries, and the author's emphases (although I found his self-deprecating writing style a bit tedious); Simon & Schuster, 2021

Paul C. Martin, CA$H - Strategie gegen den Crash; historical crash prophesy two years before the Black Monday crash of '87, rising inflation and back then also rising interest rates (not around zero as now), and lots of arguments (and criticism of Keynes) that are very similar to today's crash prophets (but in the end it was just a major market crash, not total faltering of capitalism that the author envisioned). The main thesis is that credit doesn't disappear simply by paying it back; it has to be consumed. Money can only be created as long as someone is willing to take on debt. In the private economy, debt has to be repaid, but once the state takes it over, it will only increase, until the bond holders will realize that they are holding their own debts. Inflation starts slowly and will end once the cost of more inflation is higher than the proceeds; the state goes bankrupt and there's a sudden switch to deflation, and prices will eventually come down to what they were before. Overall, interesting parallels (in theory and presentation style), and a reminder to take any opinion with a grain of salt; Ullstein, 1985

Alvin E. Roth, Wer kriegt was und warum? Bildung, Jobs und Partnerwahl: Wie Märkte funktionieren; using examples from kidney organ donations, college football leagues, and assignments for primary schools, internships of law students and residencies of young medical doctors, the authors illustratates how markets fail and what can be done (derived from his own work) to fix them, by creating the right density without clogging them and avoiding premature commitments; the many examples make this easily digestible, though I would have wished for a bit more theory and more substance in the final chapter on free markets and market design; Random House, 2016

Franz Kotteder, Der grosse Ausverkauf; Wie die Ideologie des freien Handels unsere Demokratie gefährdet; analysis of the results of the (eventually foundered) TTIP agreement between the US and EU, especially how economic interests of big companies (through intensive lobbying) force a neo-liberal agenda that is against the interests of populations and politics by establishing a parallel secret judiciary, reducing consumer rights, moving agriculture even more towards mass industrialization, privatization of municipal services, and more; the author nicely contrasts the two different viewpoints: precautionary principle in Europe vs. compensation and litigation in the US, and illuminates that it's not the US that wants to unilaterally weaker European rights — oversight of banks and financial institutions is much more stringent in the US; cautionary plea for vigilance against the corporate interests and neo-liberal policies; Ludwig Verlag, 2015

Saifedean Ammous, The Bitcoin Standard; in a passionate argument for the first invented cryptocurrency, the author explains (in non-technical terms) how Bitcoin can serve as a digital cash for direct transactions between untrusted participants, and how its programmed-in scarcity make it the best store of value over long time horizons. He candidly addresses common criticisms like the energy-intensive proof-of-work (and why it's necessary in order to maintain the security), how it can scale, and possible weaknesses, and highlights the unique situation of its open implementation and liberation from the control of its pseudonymous creator that alternative coins have not been able to replicate. All of this is packed just into the last three chapters — the first 7 chapters set the stage by recounting the history of money through the ages and cultures from shells to gold to paper and how governments all over the world have usurped control through unsound fiat currencies that threaten the masses' desire for long-term storage of value through debasement and inflation of money supply. Here, the author echoes the premonitions of other crash prophets (and shows similar statistics of money growth rates over time), refers to the Austrian school of economics (and unnecessarily combines this with a personal diatribe against John Maynard Keynes and his predominant economic theories), but also adds his own unique insights about time preference and how a deflationary money system would bring out the best in a society by favoring real investments over useless consumption.
A must-read for opponents of the current central-bank money systems and crypto believers; those that don't count themselves among those groups need to be pretty open-minded to jump on the bandwagon, but this book could be a great first step.
Wiley, 2018

Christian Rieck, Rettung vor dem Euro; though game theory and very simple and practical analogies, the author shows the critical design flaws of the Euro currency, explains the political climate in which it was devised, and how the highly indebted southern European countries will prevent real remedies that could still save the currency after the great (and ongoing) infusion of money by the ECB, all with the background of the Euro crisis of 2010; the author covers inflation and possible protections against it, and suggests a split into North-/South-Euro (or Gold-/Silver-) and new political agreements that actually prevent pervasive ignoring of the rules; in the first half of the book, the author succeeds in explaining complex financial topics so that even older children will understand it; the second half is a personal opinion piece where I would have wished for more references; refreshingly, the author does not simply parrot the liberal-capitalist creeds of most crash prophets, but presents his very unique view; Verlag Christian Rieck, 2011

Bernd Sprenger, Das Geld der Deutschen; Geldgeschichte Deutschlands; from Celtic and Roman coins to the various "pennies" of the many German kingdoms, to the currencies of the German Reich and post-war D-Mark; detailed and interesting also for the layperson; especially the fragmentation of coins (and perpetual debasement of the amount of silver; trade must have been really complex back in the middle ages) and the two big inflationary periods 1918 and 1938-44; Schöningh, 1991

Douglas Rushkoff, Program or be Programmed; ten commands for a digital age [with ubiquitous Internet platforms and social media]; the author highlights how humans are subdued by modern technology instead of using it for humanity's goals, and gives 10 simple rules to counter that; his main point is that most people are passive consumers, and hardly nobody is capable of programming (and therefore positively influencing) the machines, so that humanity is at the whim of multinational corporations; though I agree with the general direction of the criticism, I don't follow the stark contrast between software development and application use, and also see creative means in between (though many applications are indeed virtual monopolies, and that's obviously bad); a short and very readable eye-opener, especially for the younger generation of millennials; Soft Skull Press, 2010

Daniel Stelter, Coronomics; Nach dem Corona-Schock: Neustart aus der Krise; with conclusions like other "crash" books (financial crisis of 2008 not used for real reforms, addiction to low interest rates and monetary support from the central bank), the author argues that the pandemic has greatly accelerated the impending catharsis and is accelerating the inequalities; written in April 2020, he correctly forsees many aspects of the future, and argues for an induced coma for the economy instead of directed credits and financial support (which mostly benefits big companies and those with political connections); with the background of the Euro crisis, he predicts that Modern Monetary Theory will persist and the EU will finance the immense debt through inflation, at the behest of countries like Italy and France; Germany should accept these facts and >not try to use austerity measures, but go with the inevitable, argue for a proportional reduction of debts, and use the proceeds to invest in infrastructure and personal wealth building; the Corona outbreak may have been retroactively incorporated into early drafts of the book, some pages show a strange accretion of typos, but none of that diminishes the well-argued and substantiated claims; Campus Verlag, 2020

Max Otte, Weltsystemcrash; Krisen, Unruhen und die Geburt einer neuen Weltordnung; from the post-world war II order dominated by the US and Bretton Woods to a rising China, globalization, and trade wars, with the financial crisis of 2008 not resolved, the global economy shifts to a reign of financial elites, destroying the middle class, and this is a breeding ground for populism (as evidenced by Donald Trump in particular), while the Euro crisis turns the EU into a EUdSSR, with central planning and ECB policies that negatively impact Germany in particular; the autor vividly portrays his views of history and economic outlook with many statistics and examples, and in the final chapters offers some advice on how individual investment decisions may mitigate future problems; great analysis that ends just before the Corona pandemic threw the existing mechanisms into overdrive; FinanzBuch Verlag, 2020

Nathan K. Lewis, Gold: The Monetary Polaris; from a historical background that goes back to the 18th century, the author contrasts economic theories into Classicals that want to base finance on a stable currency pegged to gold versus Mercantilists that want the government and/or central banks to manage the currency to actively influence economic activity and trade, and shows that whenever the latter were in charge, it ended badly; following chapters then detail multiple variations for a gold standard system, illustrated by hypothetical and actual examples (which make this rather theoretical content easily understandable), and show a path to it by abolishing the Fed (proving that any of its functions can be taken over by the market or the currency manager) and arguing that both bank and sovereign insolvencies can still be handled, and that this in fact would give better outcomes than money printing; the last chapter decries the government bailouts that are now happening so frequently (e.g. in the financial crisis of 2008), and instead argues for a new twenty-first century capitalism that marries the 19th century's Magic Formula of low taxes and stable money with a renewed version of the twentieth century's government services and regulation, and cites countries that managed to go in that direction (though it would still be hard for a country to establish a gold standard on its own because of the worsening conflicts with the fiat currencies around - but hybrid approaches and a parallel introduction could remedy that); Canyon Maple, 2019

Mike Maloney, Guide to Investing in Gold & Silver; chronicles the history of money; beginning with gold and silver coins in ancient Rome, rulers throughout time have devalued their currencies to finance war; the book gives a fascinating (US and dollar-focused) account of the path to our current fiat currency system, through the creation of the Fed and the abolition of the gold standard, and argues that past and current stock rallies do not look so good when comparing against precious metal prices, and that there's a silent taxation through inflation, and with recent developments, the cycle will shift even more to tangible assets, regardless of how this plays out in practice (deflation, big inflation, or even hyperinflation); the final quarter of the book then discusses the various investment options with precious metals; the author is very engaged in this topic, and mostly succeeds in corroborating his arguments through common sense and historic references; nonetheless, it's still widely regarded as a minority opinion, and how the financial system will deal with the current crises remains to be seen; RDA Press, 2015

Henrik Müller, Kurzschlusspolitik; Wie permanente Empörung unsere Demokratie zerstört; analyzes the changed interactions between mass media, politicians, and the population through recent events in Germany (refugee crisis of 2015), Europe (yellow vests in France, Brexit) and world-wide (election of Donald Trump), and sees an alarming fragmentation of public discourse (fueled by the new online media reality and especially social media like Facebook), which leads to insecurity, flailing short-term politics that is based on public perception at the moment instead of long-term sustainability, and (coupled with growing inequality and global threats like climate change) to a sense of gloom and crisis of western democracies; the commoditization and digitalization of media abet ad-driven bullshit that is psychologically easier to consume (as it appeals to feelings instead of intellect) and the establishment of separate echo chambers; the author argues that we need to defend a global rational discourse based on facts, and that failing to do so leads to illiberal democracy at best or authoritarian dictatorships (as in China) at worst; after the spot-on characterization of our problems and where we're headed, the author unfortunately offers little more than a few generic principles towards a solution and no concrete evidence that something is already underway; Piper, 2020

Douglas Rushkoff, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus; How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity; building upon his earlier Life Inc., the author recounts the history of corporations and how their built-in propensity to growth got super-charged by the modern digital startup, as the early investors demand nothing but extraordinary returns which can only be achieved through becoming a platform that cannibalizes its user base and goes against the often benign motivations of the founders; with unflinching positivism, the author vividly depicts a progression from artisanal middle ages, where family businesses did local trading at the bazaar through industrialism which now has gone digital, and asks for digital distributism that returns to a sustainable, strategically bounded (instead of globalized) local exchange of value, powered by crowdfunding and blockchain, to turn the current platform monopolies into worker-owned cooperatives that collaborate and connect through a public commons; I especially liked how the chapter on the speed of money echoes other authors' warnings about an impending financial crash, but without the doom and gloom, ending instead on a positive (if somewhat fanciful) note; Penguin, 2016

Aaron Koenig, Crypto Coins; Investieren in digitale Währungen; concise summary about Bitcoin, blockchain, mining, covering (lightly) both technological and social aspects, combined with practical first steps (on wallets and exchanges), and short characterizations of some common cryptocoins, covering payment systems, appcoins, as well as (mostly failed) local coins; good and easily digestible introduction for people without previous knowledge; FinanzBuch Verlag, 2018

Marc-Uwe Kling, QualityLand; funny and poignant satire about relentless digitalization, with obvious allusions to today's Facebook, Google, and Amazon; where digital companies and intelligent devices control all aspects of personal life, and influence opinions, political views, and even the partner; the main protagonist lives a loser's life, but then learns about the filter bubble and fights against the (mis-)categorization of his personal profile with a ragtag gang of broken machines and outcasts, amidst the first election of an android politician; a startlingly realistic exaggerated sketch of a dysfunctional future; Ullstein, 2017

Greta Thunberg, Svante Thunberg, Malena Ernman, Beata Ernman, Our House Is on Fire; Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis; tells the background of the family's climate advocacy (from the mother's point of view) in 108 short and very readable scenes, starting with the parents' careers, the children's psychological disorders (selective mutism, eating few things and very little), and how that affects school life and the whole family, then establishing a link to modern society and its (similar) woes, a critique of unfettered consumerism especially in the rich Western world, and how politicians and mass media are ignoring science's pleas; this middle part summarizes the main points of the climate movement (debunking common myths like that technology will save us without affecting individual lifes much) and argues that radical system change is necessary to stop it; the final third of the book returns to the family and how Greta overcomes her struggles by getting involved and becoming accepted in the ecological community (supported by her family, also through actions such as not flying any longer), culminating in the story of her (now famous) school strike for climate, starting on 20 August 2018; the book adds a rich, deeply personal back story to the media reporting, repeats all the arguments, and gives hope and encouragement to join the movement; Penguin books, 2018

Wendelin Wiedeking, Anders ist Besser; ein Versuch über neue Wege in Wirtschaft und Politik; a critique of modern management (that is overly focused on shareholder value and cutting costs), but also politicians and media (who don't come forward with bold approaches because of tactics and who downplay Germany's achievements because bad news sells), the author argues for cutting subventions and half-hearted reforms, exemplifying a different way with the (small) Porsche AG, which rose from the ashes during his reign by strictly following Japanese lean management (that retelling is the best part of the book!), strengthening its brand by being the unconventional underdog that doesn't follow established rules; Piper, 2006

Jürgen Roth, Der Deutschland-Clan; Das skupellose Netzwerk aus Politikern, Top-Managern und Justiz; many examples of embezzlement, organized crime, and corruption on the highest levels (e.g. Flowtex, Landesbanken, Gerhard Schröder), unfortunately presented in what is more a rant than precise investigations backed by facts, arguing that unfettered capitalism worships globalization and neo-liberal politics (just like Nazism and communism in the past), profiting just the powerful members of the clan, to the detriment of the population, which is asked to go on the barricades (as engagement in the established parties is unlikely to change anything); Eichborn, 2006

Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.; How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back; a convincing analysis of today's social and financial woes (loss of jobs, deteriorating social services, emphasis on shareholder profits), backed by a thorough historical view (on the origins of money, and how a rising merchant class colluded with an aristocracy under pressure to establish charters, start colonialism, and with it the separation of wealth generation from the local producers), then going through real estate policies (suburbanization and the American Way of Life), public relations and the emergence of global brands as a replacement for local trust, individualism and self-entrepreneurship, how Big Energy / Agra / Pharma corrupt politics (both left and right), and even democratic, equalizing technologies like the Internet became subjugated by global media and corporate interests; gradually exposing the author's left-liberal viewpoint, the final chapter on local interest groups and local currencies tries to provide a ray of hope and argues that any attempts to reform the system within itself is bound to fail; Random House, 2009

Albrecht Müller, Machtwahn; Wie eine mittelmäßige Führungselite uns zugrunde richtet; a look behind elite networks and how a small number of politicians, economic leaders, and journalists keep repeating the myth of neoliberal policies (despite them not working, and being too simplistic), debunking myths like gloomy population pyramid and pensions (the working have always had to pay for the elder and young, productivity gains alone can easily make up for lower birth rates), globalization risks (with Germany leading exports world-wide); content-wise barely different to the author's previous book, leading to déjà-vus while reading; Knaur Taschenbuch, 2006

Albrecht Müller, Die Reformlüge; 40 Denkfehler, Mythen und Legenden, mit denen Politik und Wirtschaft Deutschland ruinieren; how globalization and demographic change is used by the elites (and politicians throughout all mainstream parties) to argue for ongoing neo-liberal reforms (even though past reforms didn't help or even made things worse), with the main aim to increase the gap between rich and poor; well-presented common myths are substantiated with statistics and anecdotes from the author's active career; partially full of polemics (and nostalgia for the 70s), but also inspiring to rethink one's own views; though clearly leftist,the author correctly predicted the downfall of the SPD and criticizes publishers like Der Spiegel for the loss of impartiality; Knaur Taschenbuch, 2005

Götz W. Werner, Matthias Weik, Marc Friedrich, Sonst Knallt's; Warum wir Wirtschaft und Politik radikal neu denken müssen; booklet that argues for a radical new system of taxation (with basically just VAT), based on the current system's shortcomings and fatal faults (as argued in previous books), then adds (somewhat clumsily) the antroposoph and founder of dm drug stores, who's main argument is for an unconditional basic income; interesting, and with a more positive spin, but it still remains very fuzzy and does not cover the impact of climate change at all; Eichborn Verlag, 2017

Albrecht Müller, Machtwahn; Wie eine mittelmäßige Führungselite uns zugrunde richtet; starting off as a leftist rant against the Hartz IV reforms, it then shows how pervasive the neoliberal ideology has infiltrated Germany's (and most other countries of the west) political parties, resulting in increasing social injustice; shows the problems of privatizations and deregulation (also of television, which degenerates into stupid entertainment and propaganda), and how the elite either perpetuates its mediocrity, or actively plots their enrichment and corruption; Droemer, 2006

Jürgen Roth, Der stille Putsch; Wie eine geheime Elite aus Wirtschaft und Politik sich Europa und unser Land unter den Nagel reißt; starting with incoherent leftist ramblings about secret cabals of CEOs, bankers and politicians, the second part narrates the crises in Portugal and Greece, and how the prescriptions of the troika lead to a worsening of workers' conditions, unemployment, and therefore a favorable environment for foreign investors; the author's thesis is that these economic interests is the main motivation (as there's little benefit for the population in all of this, neither short-term nor long-term), and uses continuing purchases of (mostly German) military technology as proof, then segues into a showcases of corruption in ministries of defense, privatization (and it's ill effects), and that it doesn't matter which party provides the government, which leads to the rise of populist parties and ultimately revolts; Heine, 2014

Michael Lewis, The Big Short; the sub-prime mortgage crisis, told from those few oddball investors that had bet against the system, their struggles to understand the setup, find ways to participate as an underdog, holding out against doubters as the system keeps feeding itself; and final redemption amid the downfall of Lehman Brothers, AIG, and others; explains the constructs (bundling of mortgages, CDO, CDS), and critiques the system (especially in the final chapter); Norton, 2011

Matthias Weik & Marc Friedrich, Kapitalfehler; Wie unser Wohlstand vernichtet wird und warum wir ein neues Wirtschaftsdenken brauchen; more broad and theoretical than its two precedessors, but again criticizing our system of uncontrolled financial capitalism that just benefits few, makes countries (especially southern European and developing ones, the latter of which also often suffer from a resource curse) dependent on financial institutions; shows how we still have elements of Marx's planned economy (and why this is bad), the periodic economic cycles and larger Kondratjew ones (where we're currently at the end of the digital one and possibly entering one where renewable energy and water will be important), argues for sea change in European (central bank) monetary policies, more transparency, strict regulation of banks, special taxes for those that are too big to fail; chapters jump from one topic to another (and the historical analysis of the origins of money feels odd in there), and the whole text again is very agreeable but also populist; Eichborn Verlag, 2016

Matthias Weik & Marc Friedrich, Der Crash ist die Lösung; Warum der finale Kollaps kommt und wie Sie Ihr Vermögen retten; follow-up from the 2008 financial crisis focusing on how politics had to save the (often cheating and misbehaving) banks, but due to systemic properties, nothing really has changed, only that the high indebtedness of countries makes a repeat of a public bailout impossible, and next time it will be tax payers to directly foot the bill; again a precise analysis and critique of the ties between politicians and finance, the undemocratic EU institutions, and how USA, China and Japan may be already be ahead of us (in this mess); offers a (too) brief outlook of alternatives that may take over (contributed by other authors), and has some tips to save one's assets, but can again be criticized for its mostly populist and alarmist stance; Bastei Lübbe, 2015

Matthias Weik & Marc Friedrich, Der größte Raubzug der Geschichte; Warum die Fleißigen immer ärmer und die Reichen immer reicher werden; a recount of the global finanical crisis of 2008 that brought down Lehman Brothers, AIG, and the world's economy, and an analysis of a deregulated financial system that hasn't really changed and is prone to see a repeat of the same problems, because systemic errors haven't been addressed and banks that still are "too big to fail" will need to be bailed out by central banks and politicians that are way too entangled with financial advisors and lobbyists, and just try to fix a monetary system that has long reached the end of its lifetime; shows the reasons for zero-interest policies, bailouts of southern European countries, and extraordinarily high profits and bonuses, partially comes across as sermonizing and showing off its (somewhat populist) opinion that the Euro has failed already, but is light on what to change and how to save one's money; Bastei Lübbe, 2014

Jeff Rubin, Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller; what the price of oil means for the way we live; entertaining analysis of the shifts in both supply and demand for oil, what is different to the OPEC oil shocks of the 70s, and how peak oil will affect our way of living and wealth; though the (dated) book's predictions haven't come true (the book failed to predict the fracking boom in the US), most of its (rather dire) points are still valid and topical, especially with regards to climate change, and it provides a counterpoint to Thomas L. Friedman's The World is Flat; we're still very much dependent on oil, especially for transportation, and alternatives (especially ecological ones) are very much infeasible, and this endangers economic growth (and world climate); Virgin Books, 2009

Dirk Kurbjuweit, Unser effizientes Leben; Die Diktatur der Ökonomie und ihre Folgen; how consulting companies like McKinsey promote efficiency in companies, where each measure on its own is comprehensible, but overall there's a bad outcome for society, especially as this thinking expands into politics, art (which should be an antipole to economics), and private life; bad effects are desolation (oligopolies and mainstreaming), overexertion (pressure to perform, making right-wing populism attractive for the losers), monotonous light and cheap mass-produced products, widening divisions in society, excesses in capitalism, tryanny and loss of workers' freedom (especially in combination with globalization); Rohwohlt Taschenbuch, 2005

Konrad Seitz, Die japanisch-amerikanische Herausforderung: Deutschlands Hochtechnologie-Unternehmen kämpfen ums Überleben; dated chronology of the rise of Japanese companies in electronics, car manufacturing, and computer hardware; interesting in retrospect and for its parallels to today's rise of China; describes the strategy of using a closed, powerful home market built by a collaboration of business (who organize in large conglomerates), government (aided by MITI), and population (with huge savings, willingness to abstain from consumption, and interest in high tech) to expand to North America and the European Union, building strategic alliances and crosswise direct investments, transferring (superior, lean, but also more outdated and common) manufacturing overseas to avoid tariffs, killing companies both from the outside (through dumping) and inside (through superior efficiencies); Bonn Aktuell, 1992

Eric Schlosser, Command and Control; the story of nuclear weapons and the illusion of safety; both gripping account of the explosion of a leaking Titan II missile in a silo in Arkansas and historical background of nuclear weapon development in the USA, and the challenges of keeping them safe during the Cold war, with a general discussion of the complexity and human factors; Penguin, 2013

Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad; What the Rich teach their Kids about Money - that the Poor and the Middle Class do not!; A personal story and tutorial about financial literacy, to make money work for us via investments rather than work for money (and pay a lot of taxes) throughout one's life; Warner Books, 1997

Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat: The globalized world in the twenty-first century. Weaves the fall of the Berlin wall, software, the Internet, outsourcing, offshoring, supply-chaining, India and the other emerging countries into a comprehensive explanation of globalization, its benefits, and geopolitical strategies to ensure its success. Updated and extended second edition, Penguin books, 2006