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Free-Market Champions

BELIEF? IDEOLOGY? PHILOSOPHY?

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

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

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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