Not exactly an independent point of view but one that will surely provoke much curiosity.

READ REVIEW

BERKSHIRE BEYOND BUFFETT

THE ENDURING VALUE OF VALUES

Cunningham (Business Law/George Washington Univ.; Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter, 2012, etc.) discusses whether Berkshire Hathaway, the investment vehicle for billionaire Warren Buffett, will outlive the death of its founder and why.

As the editor and publisher of Buffett's annual letters to Berkshire's shareholders and someone who knows his subject personally, the author will no doubt be considered an authoritative source by most readers. Cunningham also consulted with other Berkshire insiders, including owners—e.g., Buffett's son Howard, a co-director of Berkshire, and Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, formerly of Wesco Financial—and managers of operating subsidiaries. The author provides a full history and profile of Berkshire's major subsidiaries, as well as the company's Class A shareholders. Cunningham isn’t just interested in the history of Buffett and Berkshire, however. He is in search of the protective “moat” that shelters Buffett's creation from competitors seeking to increase their market shares. Initially, the author thought it might be Buffett himself or that it was predicated on the “float” of his insurance companies (the difference between claims paid out and premiums paid in). The author concludes that Berkshire is protected by its unique culture, which constitutes its potential for survival. Organizationally complex and “highly decentralized,” with twice the number of separate business units as General Electric, Berkshire embraces family-owned businesses, like Benjamin Moore Paints, as well as self-starters. It is a publicly quoted company that also owns private companies and franchises like Dairy Queen. Cunningham believes that the disparate businesses are held together by their shared beliefs about the ethical purposes and responsibilities of business. These traits have also combined to allow them to successfully avoid the pitfalls of buyouts, asset stripping, public offerings and indebtedness.

Not exactly an independent point of view but one that will surely provoke much curiosity.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0231170048

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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