A powerful argument for thoroughly revising how the chief players in the financial world are regulated.

Harvard Law School professor Coates looks inside the financial microcosm that exercises outsize influence on the economic landscape.

The “problem of 12” is a term of art that describes the capture of some aspect of commerce, governance, or the like by a small number of the participating players. In this instance, it’s a handful of index funds, entities such as Vanguard, Fidelity, State Street, and BlackRock, “which now own as much as 20 percent of corporate America.” Given that the S&P 500 is made up of companies in which a huge number of shareholders hold a tiny number of votes apiece—“no one person owns more than 1 percent of a company’s shares”—this enables these funds to exercise undue authority over the firms in question: CEOs have to listen to them perhaps even more closely than they do their own boards of directors. Sometimes, Coates allows, this can be to the good, as when the funds, responding to their own shareholders, press for companies to be more attentive to diversity hiring, climate change, and other issues of the day. More often, it has negative consequences. Especially damaging is the capture of a large sector of the economy by private equity funds. The private is a complicated term, but for the author’s purposes, one meaningful aspect is that these funds need not be as transparent in their reporting as other investors. Furthermore, they can acquire companies, dissolve pension funds, lay waste to payrolls, and engage in all sorts of rapacious mischief without being held to account in an ethos of “heads I win, tails you lose.” In this short report, Coates proposes “greater antitrust management of index and private equity funds and the companies they own,” which would involve thorough change in the face of massive lobbying efforts calculated to keep such change from happening.

A powerful argument for thoroughly revising how the chief players in the financial world are regulated.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9798987053546

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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