A needed and overdue corrective, this book should be essential reading for business and economics scholars and for anyone...




A business professor challenges the conventional belief that the father of economics endorsed key assumptions used to justify greed and oppose regulation.

As corporate scandals and financial crises have harmed millions and eroded public trust, debut author Cox (Marketing, Univ. of Texas, Austin) wants business schools to emphasize ethics and social responsibility to offset curriculums that foster a culture of avarice and radical individualism. Mainstream economics, he argues, embraces a political philosophy that promotes the “twin pillars of market capitalism: greedy and rational economic man and the self-regulating power of perfect competition.” Both concepts supposedly find authority in Adam Smith, whose “invisible hand” transforms the personal vice of avarice into the public virtue of economic growth. But Cox effectively describes how these theoretical economic models break down in practice, often harming free enterprise. He persuasively argues that Smith would not recognize or accept them. Cox confesses that for decades as a student and professor he had not read Smith’s 950-page Wealth of Nations, accepting what others attributed to it. Intensive study of works by and about the economist and philosopher convinced Cox that Smith distinguished between healthy self-interest and that which was “vulgarly understood”—greed. Cox cites numerous government interventions that Smith endorsed, from a minimum wage to progressive taxation, to show that his philosophy was not laissez faire. While Cox aims his work at academia, he writes clearly in mostly jargon-free language that anyone should be able to understand, striking a good balance between scholarly theory and everyday business practice. His case is thorough, well-organized, well-researched, and documented with footnotes, an extensive bibliography, and a basic index. The prose conveys a passion born of regret that the author might have served his own students better; he laments that he presented them “with a hash” of “two conflicting business philosophies.” Particularly effective is his juxtaposition of two former students at the school where he is now professor emeritus: Rick Causey became Enron’s chief accounting officer and went to federal prison; Sherron Watkins, who pens the volume’s afterword, became an Enron whistleblower and Time magazine “Person of the Year” in 2002. 

A needed and overdue corrective, this book should be essential reading for business and economics scholars and for anyone interested in these subjects.

Pub Date: May 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-981-3206-72-4

Page Count: 280

Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Co

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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