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:

Apr-2020
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

Apr-2020
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

Mar-2020
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

Mar-2020
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

Feb-2020
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

Feb-2020
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

Jan-2020
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

Dec-2019
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

Nov-2019
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

Nov-2019
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

Nov-2019
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

Oct-2019
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

Oct-2019
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

Oct-2019
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

Oct-2019
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

Oct-2019
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

Sep-2019
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

Jan-2015
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

Jan-2012
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

Aug-2007
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