A worthy introduction to Keynes’ ideas, but a slight account of free market thought.

Free-Market Champions


A spirited argument for the superiority of the Keynesian theory of economics.

In contemporary political debate, the contest between free market advocacy and the promotion of statist regulation is usually conducted in the broadest, most binary terms. Debut author Bryson attempts to find a more nuanced but popularly accessible approach to modern economics, beginning with an assessment of the discipline’s methodological rigor. First, he contends that economics falls short as a scientific enterprise, as there are simply too many shifting variables at work, including psychological ones. In fact, he says, most economic theory resembles what he cheekily labels “mysticism.” As a tonic to such unempirical prejudices, Bryson recommends what he calls “informed common sense,” and the best bearer of such wisdom turns out to be the famous economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). The author provides an impressively synoptic overview of Keynes’ economic innovations, including discussions of his theory of money, the causes and cures of unemployment, and the nature of savings and investment. Especially excellent is the author’s summary of Keynes’ views on central banking and the private financial sector, which is useful as a guide to today’s disputes about banking reform. There’s also a brief but informative section on the little-known economist Sir James Steuart, a precursor to Keynes by nearly 200 years who displayed almost shocking theoretical ingenuity and prescience. Bryson uses Keynesian ideas to dismantle classical economics; unfortunately, his account of free market philosophy isn’t as judicious as his descriptions of Keynes’ concepts. It reduces much of economist Adam Smith’s views to the untethering of human greed, overlooking the distinction that Smith made between avarice and rational self-interest. Also, the author often undermines his arguments with rhetorical stridency, too promiscuously discussing the “madness” and “idiocy” of those with whom he disagrees. Also, there are detours—such as a discussion of Ayn Rand—that seem gratuitous and ax-grinding. As a single-volume introduction to Keynes, or as a counterbalance to contentious sloganeering about the role of the government in economic stimulus, this is an erudite gem. However, readers will likely be frustrated by its displays of philosophical intemperance.

A worthy introduction to Keynes’ ideas, but a slight account of free market thought.

Pub Date: June 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-3115-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet