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

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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BEATING THE STREET

More uncommonly sensible investment guidance from a master of the game. Drawing on his experience at Fidelity's Magellan Fund, a high- profile vehicle he quit at age 46 in 1990 after a spectacularly successful 13-year tenure as managing director, Lynch (One Up on Wall Street, 1988) makes a strong case for common stocks over bonds, CDs, or other forms of debt. In breezy, anecdotal fashion, the author also encourages individuals to go it alone in the market rather than to bank on money managers whose performance seldom justifies their generous compensation. With the caveat that there's as much art as science to picking issues with upside potential, Lynch commends legwork and observation. ``Spending more time at the mall,'' he argues, invariably is a better way to unearth appreciation candidates than relying on technical, timing, or other costly divining services prized by professionals. The author provides detailed briefings on how he researches industries, special situations, and mutual funds. Particularly instructive are his candid discussions of where he went wrong as well as right in his search for undervalued securities. Throughout the genial text, Lynch offers wry, on-target advisories under the rubric of ``Peter's Principles.'' Commenting on the profits that have accrued to those acquiring shares in enterprises privatized by the British government, he notes: ``Whatever the Queen is selling, buy it.'' In praise of corporate parsimony, the author suggests that, ``all else being equal, invest in the company with the fewest photos in the annual report.'' Another bull's-eye for a consummate pro, with appeal for market veterans and rookies alike. (Charts and tabular material— not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-75915-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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