Recommended Reading List: Top 3 Economics Books of All-Time

The End of Cheap China, Revised and Updated

The article is a reading list sharing the best books to read in various categories based on many hours of reading and research. You'll find many good books to read, organized by category.

This is a reading list for people who don't have time for unimportant books. We only list the best books to read in each category. You can be sure that each one is fantastic and will be worth your time.

Want to keep things simple? Check out the “Top 3” lists in this article to get some great book recommendations without feeling overwhelmed by all the options.

Every day, we will roll out 6 books in different categories to cater to different interests and needs of our readers.

Sugar Daddy Capitalism

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Paperback / softback by Peter Fleming

Sugar Daddy Capitalism: The Dark Side of the New Economy by Peter Fleming, published by Polity Press

Peter Fleming’s Sugar Daddy Capitalism discusses the process of denormalization – when regulatory protection becomes less and less apparent in the business world – and the way it impacts our lives and personal relationships.

It examines the intricate power relationship between workers and bosses under the new economy.

The digital world has blurred the lines between work and leisure, and new forms of employment (which Mr. Fleming points out are actually 19th Century forms of employment) brought in by Uber and other similar start-ups, have changed the way we view workers’ rights.

Overall, Mr. Fleming is very succinct at presenting the ‘dark side’ of the system.
The ever-growing imbalance between rich and poor, sexual harassment in ‘ , and the crisis of financial wellbeing (which our company, yulife, tries to tackle) are only a few of the valid problems he brings up in his book.

However, Mr. Fleming attributes all these concerns to the heart of the new economy, assuming that business owners are inherently motivated by sinister agendas and the desire to accumulate wealth.

I believe that is wrong.

As to the essence of the new economy, Mr. Fleming seems to overlook the many benefits the system has.

We have seen a lot of change in the past 10 years, but not all has been for the worse. Technological developments have improved our lives massively and expanded humanity’s abilities, knowledge and convenience.

Start-ups like Uber or Airbnb are presented as money-hungry fat-cats in Sugar Daddy Capitalism. The reality is that their point is not to exploit, it is to disrupt old-fashioned industries that did not wish to evolve – until these innovative start-ups arrived and made them rethink their purpose.

Notwithstanding, these start-ups have to spearhead progress, and the exploitation of workers is not progress – it is regression. But the business world is, in many ways, moving away from the exploitation of workers. The rise in employee benefits, for example, shows that some business owners fundamentally respect their employees as human beings and want to support them.

On a broader level, like Mr. Fleming suggests, government regulation regarding workers’ conditions may well be needed. However, it has to come hand-in-hand with ethical business.

Leaders in the financial sphere should promote mission-driven businesses. That is how we should approach business: as a vehicle for doing good. Being moved forward by a vision and putting people first is not just the government’s job – it is our job too.

I found Sugar Daddy Capitalism very interesting because the challenges the new economy presents cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, unlike Mr. Fleming, I believe it is up to the business world to change it.

Leaders and entrepreneurs need to re-engage with the purpose of what they are trying to achieve and confront these challenges. Injecting human values into business is not only how we make the market work for the majority of people but also the only way I see to be truly successful.

The Wealth Hoarders

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Paperback / softback by Chuck Collins

Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of a family office as they fly below the radar. I explore the role of family offices in the larger “wealth defense industry” in my new book, The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (Polity Books).

And Kalena Thomhave and I make the case for increased scrutiny and oversight of family offices in our newly authored briefing paper, “Family Offices: A Vestige of the Shadow Financial System.”

Ultra-high-net-worth families — those with $250 million up to the billionaire class — form family offices to bring wealth management services “in house.” Key to their purpose is capital preservation and fostering inherited wealth dynasties. They are major utilizers of dynasty trusts to sequester wealth and avoid estate taxes. In this way, family offices serve to entrench multi-generational wealth inequality. Family offices are an unregulated corner of the financial marketplace with an estimated $6 to $7 trillion in assets under management (compared to $3.4 trillion in global hedge funds).

As the concentration of wealth globally has increased, so has the number of family offices.
There are now an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 family offices globally, most having formed in the last 15 years. The U.S. family office sector formed the Private Investor Coalition to successfully lobby against financial oversight provisions in the 2010 Dodd- Frank financial reform legislation. As a result, after 2011, dozens of hedge funds converted to family office structures.

Proponents of family offices believe light oversight is justified because these offices only serve private families. As they are not offering services to multiple clients, the thinking goes, family offices should not be subject to scrutiny. However, the Archegos collapse revealed that family offices can contribute to systemic risk because of their size, secrecy, and growing interest in speculative investments. Together they manage trillions in unregulated financial capital, some invested in the next generation of exotic financial instruments and profit-making schemes.

Family offices should be required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and publicly report certain option and stock positions on a quarterly basis. They should be required to make 13F disclosures on a quarterly basis to declare all portfolio positions, as hedge funds must do.
Archegos is an early warning sign about how new speculative investment tools — the equivalent of credit default swaps during the 2008 economic meltdown — will arrive on the scene. Don’t be surprised when the delivery systems are capital supplied by family offices.

The End of Cheap China, Revised and Updated

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Paperback / softback by Shaun Rein

For multinationals, “The End of Cheap China” is a mixed blessing. Shaun Rein, an American marketing consultant based in Shanghai, has written an interesting book with that title. The good news is that customers can afford to pay more. The bad news is that they’re increasingly reluctant to spend their higher incomes on anything multinationals have to offer.

Rein, who has advised Apple and restaurant operator Yum on their China strategies, has some useful advice. To start, China should be treated as a top trend-setting market. Apple inadvertently encouraged a grey market in its products by delaying the Chinese roll-out of new products. Porsche did that, launching its Panamera sedan in China before the United States. China is now the luxury carmaker’s second-largest market.

Up and coming domestic rivals are making life in China more difficult for foreign multinationals. While Chinese consumers trust foreign brands more not to cut corners, Chinese companies can often undercut foreign producers without much compromise of quality. They are often also more adept at catering specifically to domestic tastes. Western brands might need to launch cheaper secondary brands or acquire local rivals. Yum, which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and already counts China as its largest market, acquired Little Sheep, a hot-pot restaurant chain, in 2011.

On the production side, multinationals have to recognize that not-so-cheap China is no longer obviously the right place for manufacturing. Factory work is better paid and often spurned by the most desirable potential employees. The right response for multinationals varies - some companies try to justify higher prices with stronger brands and others convert factories to sell to China and other emerging markets.

Corruption is an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away as the country develops. In China’s low-trust environment, building relationships is important. But Rein, who is half Chinese and speaks the language fluently, argues that connections can be a double-edged sword. “They will not get you everything, but they can cost you everything”, he writes, adding that whenever a key government official is arrested, so are the business leaders surrounding him, and the government often gives businessmen tougher sentences than officials. Just after the book came out, British businessmen Neil Haywood was murdered by his patroness, the wife of the former chief of Chongqing.

Rein also examines a broad range of other issues, including modern Chinese women, education and neo-colonialism in Africa. The founder of China Market Research Group would have been wiser to focus more on the proper positioning of multinationals. But his writing is engaging. “The End of Cheap China” is full of vivid anecdotes from different levels of the Chinese society, from Chinese billionaires to senior party officials to waitresses and even prostitutes. He gleaned some unique insights about how the Chinese society works from his wife, who comes from a well-connected Chinese family. For any foreigners thinking about doing business in the Middle Kingdom, “The End of Cheap China” is a good place to start.