An economics degree isn’t required to follow the authors’ nuanced argument, but it would surely help. Recommended reading...

CAPITALISM WITHOUT CAPITAL

THE RISE OF THE INTANGIBLE ECONOMY

A searching, technical examination of the arrival of a kind of economy in which much of what is produced is abstract, symbolic, and speculative.

The economies of old, write London-based economists Haskel and Westlake, were founded on things that were actually manufactured and grown. Even if “the idea that the economy might come to depend on things that were immaterial was an old one,” the actual fact of such an economy has eluded precise description. For example, we lack the ability to measure certain aspects of a company such as Microsoft, whose market value a decade ago was $250 billion, but its physical basis—the value of its properties and equipment—was only about 1 percent of that. The “shift to intangible investment” has widespread consequences: it plays out in long-term inequality, infrastructure development, taxation, and other areas. It furthers what the authors call “secular stagnation” by allowing scalable firms to emerge that engulf and overpower competitors, as opposed to enhancing an economy based on the “spillover effects” of a high tide that raises all boats. The authors examine some interesting sociological points along the way—for one, that supporters of Brexit and other populist movements “score low on tests for the psychological trait of openness to experience,” such openness being key to symbolic analysis of the sort that advanced, intangible economies rely on. However, for the most part, their argument is based on hard economic data and trends, such as companies’ buying back stock in order to become private again, which allows them to operate without the same transparency required of public operations. In a closed economy, investing becomes more challenging, as does corporate financing; the authors examine trends in that direction as well.

An economics degree isn’t required to follow the authors’ nuanced argument, but it would surely help. Recommended reading for venture capitalists and investment counselors.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-17503-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

Did you like this book?

more