WALL STREET

A HISTORY

Geisst (Finance/Manhattan Coll.) attempts a comprehensive history of Wall Street. Unfortunately, this amorphous subject poses problems that are not overcome. ``Wall Street'' is an umbrella term for the financial community centered in New York City, not a single endeavor located at a specific address. Given the role of private investment in a capitalist economic system, it is also inextricably linked to government finance, all sectors of the domestic economy, and economic activity worldwide. This makes Wall Street difficult to define, let alone document over time, but Geisst nevertheless plunges forward with a general survey. The result is an account that remains on the surface yet will often be inaccessible to those without some knowledge of the market; this compendium of information lacks any framework to guide the reader through events. To make matters worse, the broader political environment is sometimes misrepresented: How can one characterize the Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s as ``the very opposite of Republican [Party] principles'' when Republicans had championed protective tariffs for the preceding 60 years? The most disconcerting quality of this volume, however, is a function of Geisst's effort to combine honest description with a proWall Street perspective. For example, President Truman's suspicions ``that financiers had been conspiring to rig the underwriting business in their own favor'' are characterized as his ``bias against Wall Street,'' despite Geisst's extensive accounts of financiers doing precisely what Truman suspected. Even stranger is the assertion that the dismissal of a government case alleging collusion on Wall Street proved that investment bankers are ``vital to the economy''; vital they may be, but drawing this conclusion here is certainly a non sequitur. A history of Wall Street educating the general public about this important and often confusing institution is a worthy goal— and one not yet achieved.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-19-511512-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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 readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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