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'Profiting Without Producing' stands to restrain finance and fight for socialism

Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All

by Costas Lapavitsas
(Verso Books,
2014;
$34.95)

Economics professor Costas Lapavitsas' new book Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, delving into the elusive world of finance, that place where fortunes are made seemingly out of nothing, but with such dramatic impact on the world economy. Lapavitsas tackles one of the most innovative and perhaps most controversial concepts in political economy: financialization. Aaron Leonard recently corresponded with professor Lapavitsas via email to ask him about his new book and its wider implications.

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'Disassembly Required' dismantles capitalism and builds new ideas about resistance

Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism

by Geoff Mann
(AK Press,
2013;
$14.95)

Geoff Mann is the author of Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism, which acts as a primer on economics 101 and speaks to those people who are not comfortable with the status quo, confused about the state of things and trying to imagine a different system.

Aaron Leonard recently corresponded with Professor Mann via email to examine the book and dig deeper into some of the popular explanations it offers. This is an edited version of their original conversation.

 

Who are you hoping to reach with this book?

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'Recession hurts, but austerity kills': How governments' austerity measures are killing us all

The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills

by David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu
(Basic Books,
2013;
$26.99)

On March 28, 2012, Giuseppe Campaniello left for work earlier than usual. He would have kissed his wife goodbye, but she was sleeping so peacefully he decided to let her rest. 

Campaniello then set off for the Equitalia tax office in his hometown of Bologna, Italy. Once there, he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight. He died nine days later in hospital. Campaniello’s cause of death? Economics.

Just days before, he’d received a final notice from the tax office; doubling a fine he reportedly couldn’t pay, which proved to be the final straw.

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Book review: Thieves of Bay Street

Thieves of Bay Street: How Banks, Brokerages and the Wealthy Steal Billions from Canadians

by Bruce Livesey
(Random House Canada,
2012;
$32.00)

The Harper government claims that Canada's finance industry is stable and well regulated. In Thieves of Bay Street journalist Bruce Livesey makes the case that the Canadian government and the courts turn a blind eye to scams, rip-offs and blatant frauds by brokers, investment houses, banks and corporate executives.

Livesey -- who has worked for CBC, PBS, and the New York Times -- reminds readers of the billions lost by investors in Bre-X, Principal Trust and Sino-Forest Products. He makes the case that brokers, investment dealers and banks who defraud their clients rarely face criminal charges. He points to the failure of securities commissions in Canada to bring charges against Conrad Black and David Radler.

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Paul Krugman: How to End This Depression

End This Depression Now!

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End This Depression Now!
by Paul Krugman (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012; $26.50)

Paul Krugman is stepping up to play the kind of role that John Maynard Keynes performed in the 1930s -- arguing in clear accessible language for the government to spend to get us out of the slump. End This Depression Now! is his just-published polemic against the austerians -- the powerful tribe found on both sides of the Atlantic that insists on balanced budgets. The book frequently hits the mark, but there is a crucial weakness that undermines the power of Krugman’s case.

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Bernard Harcourt: Free markets lead to less, not more freedom

The Illusion of Free Markets, Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order

by Bernard E. Harcourt
(Harvard University Press,
2011;
$29.61)

Stephen Harper campaigned for a majority so that his government could end judges' discretion in sentencing and make criminals serve full jail terms. Even though crime rates in Canada have been steadily declining, and California and other U.S. states are concluding that filling prisons to overcrowding does little to reduce crime and is an unacceptable drain on public finances, Harper continues to insist that this is a priority of the Conservative majority.

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How corporate tax breaks hurt humanity

Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World

by Nicholas Shaxson
(Bodley Head,
2011;
$24.95)

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes. That was in 1789. Mr. Franklin might be surprised to learn that today his axiom no longer holds, at least not for the rich and powerful among us. Truth be told -- as it is in British investigative journalist and author Nicholas Shaxson's meticulously researched and riveting book, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World -- taxation is only certain for the ordinary law-abiding citizen, the non-rich. The wealthy and the ultra-wealthy can quite easily get by paying little or even no tax, thanks to the shadowy spider webs of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions that span the globe.

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Has capitalism reached its limits?

The Enigma of Capital

The Enigma of Capital

by David Harvey
(Oxford University Press,
2010;
$27.95)

David Harvey is an internationally renowned social geographer, author of numerous books and a Marxist. He began his academic career in the U.K., spent decades in the U.S., and has taught in France, Korea and China.

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Jim Stanford's summer reads

Economic Democracy

by Allan Engler
(Fernwood Publishing,
2010;
$15.95)

One of the wonderful things about being away from the usual grind for a few months, is that I get to engage in this unusual activity called picking up a book and actually reading it. What a concept! It doesn't happen much in the normal day-to-day life of CAW economist, engaged citizen, and co-parent of two lovelies. But it does happen while I'm on leave (I have a "4-over-5″ deferred salary leave plan, where I work for 80 per cent of my pay but get 20 per cent of my time off. It's wonderful!)

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Economic thought from a feminist

Greed, Lust & Gender: A History of Economic Ideas

Greed, Lust & Gender: A History of Economic Ideas

by Nancy Folbre
(Oxford University Press,
2009;
$39.95)

This book has a slightly racy title (at least for an economics book) and my initial reaction was that the ‘lust' focus was a bit forced. Greed and gender are associated easily with economic ideas, but lust? Nor was I assuaged by the assertion in the introduction that ‘lust is to feminist theory what greed is to economic theory -- a marker of contested moral boundaries,' an assertion that seemed too convenient and probably not true. Isn't it usually religious ideologues that set moral boundaries with lust?

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