An earnest exercise wherein all the right people say all the right things.

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A FORCE FOR GOOD

HOW ENLIGHTENED FINANCE CAN RESTORE FAITH IN CAPITALISM

A corporate CEO and longtime champion of “enlightened finance” gathers essays from prominent academics, executives, regulators and politicians on reforming the financial services industry, making it “a consistent and positive force for social good.”

Editor Taft (Stewardship: Lessons Learned from the Lost Culture of Wall Street, 2012) charges his contributors, 25 industry heavyweights whose names are likely unknown to common readers (exceptions include Nobel-winning economist Robert Shiller, former Sen. Judd Gregg and possibly Vanguard founder John Bogle), to concentrate not on the errors that precipitated the Great Recession but on what can be done to repair the damage. Accordingly, this collection takes on the tone of a revival meeting, where congregants urge a return to first principles and a renewal of the faith. In nine sections, each gracefully introduced by the editor, Taft’s authors address topics germane to the future of finance: re-examining the contract between finance and society (with a special emphasis on the moral component of the compact); taking up the unfinished work of regulatory reform; re-establishing trust, integrity and client focus; restoring confidence in the stock market; achieving fiscal and monetary policy equilibrium; ensuring retirement savings and maximizing access to housing; encouraging a long-term investment strategy; and advocating for a “more responsible form of capitalism” that takes sustainability into account. Addressing issues like sustainability and “income inequality” perhaps necessarily accompanies any modern-day discussion of capitalism, lest we suppose a financier is in business solely for profit, but it’s somewhat surprising to find throughout this collection a repeated invocation of words and phrases like “ethical leadership,” “stewardship,” “the good society,” “fiduciary duty,” “core values,” “leadership,” “integrity,” “transparency,” “disclosure” and “authenticity”—all virtues we might have hoped informed standard operations well before the 2008 meltdown. It seems they did not.

An earnest exercise wherein all the right people say all the right things.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1137279729

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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