Brown’s portrait of an ideal market is speculative in the ordinary sense of the word, but, even if likely to be dismissed by...

In a Hobbesian marketplace full of predators and lambs, an economist offers a case for being a little nicer—and more mindful.

A primary tenet of Buddhism is that, given that all life involves suffering, we are at our best when minimizing another’s travails. In the economic sense, this involves a chain of Pareto improvements—transactions, that is, in which everyone is left better off than before. That’s the ideal, seldom realized. In Buddhist economics, one hopes for the same all-around benefit. To gauge how it works in a particular society, writes Brown (Director, Center for Work, Technology, and Society/Univ. of California), “we look at the distribution of well-being across its population, including equal access to opportunity.” Such an economy hinges on a recognition of the primacy of public goods, including ready access to education and other human-capital resources, and it requires a full reckoning of what an economist would call externalities: the costs of pollution attendant in burning a gallon of gas. In this calculus, the old laws of supply and demand yield to a new understanding, to “new prices and outputs that reflect our new interdependent values.” Naturally, such an understanding also involves a redistribution of wealth within Western economies and from richer to poorer countries, a kind of large-scale international socialism. Lest anyone dismiss Brown’s program as pure pie in the sky—though there is that—she offers the example of the Buddhist country of Bhutan, which “introduced the idea of using a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index in place of GDP to measure the nation’s prosperity and well-being.” And with lessened suffering and a few more dollars in the pocket, why wouldn’t one be measurably happier?

Brown’s portrait of an ideal market is speculative in the ordinary sense of the word, but, even if likely to be dismissed by the financier class, it makes for an attractive prospectus.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-366-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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