A revealing—and troubling—overview of the uses of money and power at the international level.

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THE SHADOW MARKET

HOW A GROUP OF WEALTHY NATIONS AND POWERFUL INVESTORS SECRETLY DOMINATE THE WORLD

Business and economics journalist Weiner (What Goes Up: The Uncensored History of Modern Wall Street as Told by the Bankers, Brokers, CEOs, and Scoundrels Who Made It Happen, 2005) looks at how wealthy nations in Asia and the Middle East are using shrewd investments to gain power on the international stage.

The author writes that many of these countries have successfully diversified their portfolios in recent years, investing widely in many different industries—most notably in energy-related companies—in countries all around the world. As might be expected, the book focuses heavily on China, which has lately become a worldwide economic powerhouse, as well as America’s largest creditor by far. Weiner looks at how China has used its financial clout to subtly but firmly influence its relations with the United States, as well as many other countries around the world, and he points out how China’s poor record on human rights has largely been diplomatically swept under the rug in the past few years. Middle Eastern countries, meanwhile, have also used their oil-based wealth to gain political advantage. In perhaps the most compelling section, Weiner examines how Libya used its considerable financial influence on the United Kingdom to help get convicted Libyan terrorist Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi released from a Scottish prison on compassionate leave in 2009—a move that many around the world, including the U.S. government, considered an outrage. The author reveals the ways that staggeringly wealthy countries are using their money to get what they want, both politically and economically, and his examples are consistently engaging and more than a little unnerving. His description of the U.S. Defense Department’s simulated economic “war games,” for example, in which China always comes out victorious, is an eye-opener. Weiner also examines changing investment strategies elsewhere, particularly Norway, which insists on investing in what it deems ethical companies, and how it is using its influence to try to change the behavior of corporations.

A revealing—and troubling—overview of the uses of money and power at the international level.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-2131-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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 deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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