Moyo clearly identifies systemic problems that the democracies—or what’s left of them—would do well to address.

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EDGE OF CHAOS

WHY DEMOCRACY IS FAILING TO DELIVER ECONOMIC GROWTH—AND HOW TO FIX IT

Zambian-born economist Moyo (Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World, 2012, etc.) takes on thorny questions of economic and political stagnation.

Is democracy an essential component of market freedom? No, writes the author. As the command economy of China demonstrates, “many aspects of how the Chinese political class manages its economy are antithetical to the Western values of democracy and free markets.” That does not keep Western investors away, for China has demonstrated a commitment to things that Western democracies, by Moyo’s account, have abandoned: the idea of constant economic growth and, with it, investment in infrastructure, health care, education, and other public goods that enhance political stability. By contrast, the West is ground down in stagnation, endemic poverty and inequality, and political unrest, all of which “suggest that democracy is not a prerequisite of economic growth.” For Moyo, that economic growth is a sine qua non: without it, the developing world cannot attain developed status, and the developed world cannot flourish. Democratic capitalism may be preferred to other systems, but it has shortcomings that play out in the economic and political spheres. If democracies are to endure, she writes, then inequality must be combatted and elections need to be truly competitive and involve more than mere duopolies. The fundamental enemy of growth and democracy alike is “short-termism,” behavior that ignores the long view in favor of immediate returns and gratification. For example, “a less politicized and more long-term-focused education policy would help circumvent the problem in which the United States ranks among the highest in terms of education spending per capita but in some respects is among the worst in education outcomes when compared against its advanced country peers.” Although the writing is sometimes clunky and the argument repetitive, the author’s program of remedy is provocative and of much interest to advocates of growth.

Moyo clearly identifies systemic problems that the democracies—or what’s left of them—would do well to address.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09746-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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