Sometimes breathlessly narrated but always interesting, this is a solid work of popular business reporting.



A carefully documented yet spirited account of a corporate marriage seemingly made in hell.

Nothing in the corporate cultures of Germany's Daimler-Benz and America's Chrysler suggested that the two would make a good match, according to Detroit News journalists Vlasic and Bradley: "Daimler and Chrysler didn't develop, manufacture, market, or sell cars the same way. Daimler executives had larger staffs and fatter expense accounts. Chrysler officers had broader responsibilities and bigger salaries and bonuses." Vlasic and Stertz also note that Daimler was worth much more than Chrysler, by nearly every measure, and that Daimler's staff spoke fluent English and was perfectly at home in the global market, whereas the Detroit-based firm was resolutely insular and proud of its blue-collar, made-in-America ethos. Even so, in the mid-1990s, when billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian began to maneuver against self-promoting Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca for control of the company—initiating, for instance, steps to buy up stock and return Chrysler to its former privately held status—he found curious allies in the German and Swiss executives who controlled Daimler-Benz (and who sought to broaden their American—and then the Asian—market). In 1998, after long, cloak-and-dagger negotiations that the authors recount in vivid detail, the parties engineered what has been called "the biggest industrial merger of all time," involving a swap of stock valued at $38 billion and a restructuring of the corporate giants on both sides of the Atlantic. The merger had unforeseen consequences large and small; the authors note, for instance, that Kerkorian, who had ordered a new Boeing jet for his own use, had to switch to an Airbus, for with the union of Chrysler and Daimler he had become the largest single private investor in the Airbus consortium. More to the point, after the Germans "took control over an American icon," they found themselves heading an unwieldy entity that may in the end do damage both to the Mercedes and the Chrysler brands (and one that, in any event, "did not make any money for shareholders on either side of the Atlantic Ocean").

Sometimes breathlessly narrated but always interesting, this is a solid work of popular business reporting.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-17305-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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

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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

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