Money geeks are the primary audience, to be sure, but futurists and trend-watchers will also take interest in the author’s...

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THE CURSE OF CASH

A noted economist imagines a modern society that functions without paper money and coins.

As former International Monetary Fund chief economist Rogoff (Public Policy/Harvard Univ.; co-author: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, 2009, etc.) notes, though the drift of modern economies is to provide alternate means of account to the paper-and-metal exchange of old, we are still awash in cash. There was enough of it outside of banks, he writes, for each man, woman, and child in the U.S. to have $4,200, mostly in big bills, which, he adds, “is a nearly universal problem in advanced economies.” Though it will likely be a while before we can see our way clear to adopting a system such as that used by the entrepreneurial Ferengi of the Star Trek franchise, who used a substance called latinum so volatile that it had to be encased in worthless gold, there are good reasons, by Rogoff’s argument, to want to do so. The first prong of the argument is easy enough to follow: cash enables crimes such as money laundering and tax evasion, and doing away with it serves justice. The second broad component is more rarified, involving the goal of zero inflation via negative interest, a matter so unthinkable recently that, as the author notes, the theory is just beginning to catch up to an increasing fact. Naturally, the speculators will be a step ahead of the economists, and there are ways to game even the negative interest system for profit; tax laws can be modified accordingly, though “the objective of negative interest rate policy is primarily macroeconomic stabilization, not raising revenue.” Rogoff strives to write accessibly, but such matters are so heady and technical that the latter portions of the book will be daunting to those without training in economics.

Money geeks are the primary audience, to be sure, but futurists and trend-watchers will also take interest in the author’s proposals for phasing out cash.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-17213-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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 readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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