Two thousand fifteen saw the publication of almost two dozen books of economics, finance and history that the thoughtful advisor might be well-advised to read; as is my wont, I offered capsule reviews of them in my newsletter, Nick Murray Interactive. (The archive is permanent, and always available to new subscribers.) Of them, these eight stand out on their own original and highly eclectic merits. In the order I encountered them, they are:
The Forgotten Depression: 1921, the Crash That Cured Itself by James Grant. The enormity of fiscal and monetary stimulus thrown by this country at the crisis of 2007-09 is entirely without precedent—and it bought us the slowest economic recovery ever. To the acerbic James Grant, this is no surprise, and he longs for the halcyon days of the business depression that followed the sudden end of World War I. The nascent Federal Reserve actually raised interest rates in the teeth of this massive deflation, and the fiscal authorities moved—if you can even believe this—to balance the budget. There was no stimulus—indeed, no intervention of any kind—leaving wages and prices quickly to fall to market-clearing levels. The depression burned itself out in 18 months, to be followed by the unprecedented boom of the 1920s. Another reviewer called The Forgotten Depression “learned, beautifully written and timely.” You will call it a perfect delight.
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein. There are over 7 billion human beings in the world. The International Energy Agency classifies 3 billion of these as not having “adequate electricity,” including 1.3 billion who have none at all. Yet for the past half-century, predictions of environmental disaster wreaked by fossil fuels, together with draconian proposals for cutting back their use, have held sway, despite the fact that none of these predictions have come true. Mr. Epstein asks, in this quietly devastating book, what our standard of value is. If it is the quality, not to say the sanctity, of human life, then the world needs more rather than less electricity. And the only way to generate sufficient electricity—once nuclear and hydro are off the table, as the environmental religion decrees that they must be—is by burning more fossil fuels. (Of course, if human life is not our standard of value, then we are left to wonder what is.) The reader will find this book a profoundly moral exercise.