April 13, 2009


Ahamed, Liaquat, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) ("No other issue would create more debate, disagreement, feuds, and confusion within the Federal Reserve System than what to do about the stock market. Wall Street had always loomed large in the American national psyche. Charles Dickens, visiting the United States in 1842, had been struck by the local taste for speculation and the desire 'to make a fortune out of nothing.' After the 1884 panic on the New York Stock Exchange, the London magazine, The Spectator commented, 'The English, however speculative, fear poverty. The Frenchman shoots himself to avoid it. The American with a million speculates to win ten, and if he takes losses takes a clerkship with equanimity. This freedom from sordidness is commendable, but it makes a nation of the most degenerate gamesters in the world.'" Id. at 270.).

Binmore, Ken, Rational Decisions (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (This is a very nice read for those into game theory.).

Cohen, G.A., Rescuing Justice and Equality (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2008) (This is an interesting and worthwhile critique of John Rawls's 'Difference Principle'. "We perforce live by rules: we cannot engage in funamental normative thought whenever we face a decision. And it is fine to act without reflection on a rule that we know belongs to the set of rules in which we repose confidence. But if something makes us reflect, or even it we perchance reflect, here and now, then we rise above the rule: it is only as a rule that a rule should do its work as a rule." Id. at 270-271.).

Herring, George C., From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776 (The Oxford History of the United States) (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2008).

Kamm, F. M., Intricate Ethics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2007).

Macey, Jonathan R., Corporate Governance: Promises Kept, Promise Broken (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2008) (Though I am not completely convinced by the particulars of Macey’s arguments, his analysis is well worth the read. Nicely done is his discussion of how boards of directors, even those with supposedly independent outside directors, are often captured by management. We know the story: People tend to hire, or appoint to boards and committees, people who they think will think like they do and who can be counted on to do what (i.e., make the decisions) management wants them to do. The result is that boards and committees are rarely as independent in their thinking as we expect or want. And, they certainly do not function as much of a check or monitor to management’s decision. The term independent board,” or the term “independent committee,” may be an oxymoron. In short, Group-Think is the norm. We all want to be loved by the emperor or empress, and we don’t get their loved by informing them that they don’t have on any clothing or pointing out their warts. If you don’t need the love or insist on pointing out the warts, then one is not going to be on the board or on the committee. Thus, many corporate governance regulations, such as the Sarbones-Oxley Act, are a joke. As you know, that act was enacted in response to the Enron fiasco; yet the Enron board would have been, pretty much, in full compliance with it. Anyway, the book is worth suggesting to students. Macey manages to highlight some of the classic cases, e.g., Van Gorkom and Walt Disney, and do so in ways which may cause one to wonder why corporate American and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit have survived as long as they have. Macey’s solution favors less governmental regulation and more regulation through market forces. Of course, the law review articles, where Macey first developed many of the thoughts refined here, were written before the present financial crisis. Some are chanting that we are in the mess we are in due to lack of regulation (resulting from a quarter century of deregulation—i.e., the Reagan legacy). Others are chanting that there has been too much regulation or too much of the wrong regulation. Macey will fall into the latter camp of chanters. “Regulation can impede, discourage, and even ban the operation of particular governance devices. Likewise, regulation also can facilitate, encourage, and even require corporate governance devices to operate—or to operate in a particular way. One of the principal contributions of this book is to point out that many of the most effective corporate governance devices, such as certain kinds of trading and activities in the takeover market, are either heavily regulated or banned outright. On the other hand, the mechanisms and institutions that I regard as the least effective, corporate boards of directors and credit rating agencies, for example, are facilitated, encouraged, and even directly or indirectly, required by regulation.” Id. at viiviii.).

Moore, Honor, ed., Poems from the Women’s Movement (American Poets Project 28) (New York: Library of America, 2009).

Norrell, Robert J., Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington (Cambridge & London: Belknap Press/Harvard U. Press, 2009).