by Bethany McLean ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 14, 2015
Readers of this maddening, sharp report will rightly wonder why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been allowed to survive and...
The housing sector is a house of cards.
So economics writer McLean (co-author: All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, 2010, etc.)—who, having covered Enron in The Smartest Guys in the Room and the financial meltdown of 2008, knows a thing or two about such constructs—reveals in this report from the trenches. One conclusion comes early on in this latest book, a brief exposé: namely, that we have it all backward by privatizing health care and socializing mortgages, the reverse of most countries. “Most of the mortgage market in this country,” writes McLean, “is now supported by government agencies, more so than it was before the financial crisis.” Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-sponsored enterprises may have helped precipitate the crisis—as the author notes, by 2006, almost three-quarters of all mortgages issued in the U.S. were less than prime—but they weren’t the only causes. Furthermore, though the surviving banks are pretty much back to normal, the mortgage market is not, retaining its old vulnerabilities while layering on bureaucracy. The result: when the next crisis comes, McLean suggests evenhandedly, the mortgage sector will lead the decline. The author charts the situation in vigorous prose whose arguments are often announced in her chapter titles (“The $9 Billion Accounting Fraud,” “Mr. Hedge Fund Goes to Washington”). What is clear is that the mortgage market requires reform of various kinds, particularly to rein in its tendency to value profit over fundamentals. What is less clear is just how to effect such reform, with recent efforts amounting to a roundabout way “to rebuild a system that, in a key way, would have been similar to what we had”—and that would still leave taxpayers with the burden of paying for the mistakes of the private sector.Readers of this maddening, sharp report will rightly wonder why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been allowed to survive and why we can’t do better.
Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2015
Page Count: 160
Publisher: Columbia Global Reports
Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015
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by Daniel Kahneman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2011
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
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011
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by Erin Meyer ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2014
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
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014
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