A useful contribution to the ongoing shaping of the story of the recent financial crisis.

THE AIG STORY

Greenberg collaborates with Cunningham (Law/George Washington Univ.; Contracts in the Real World, 2012) to tell his side of the story of the incredible rise, and even more precipitous fall, of AIG, once the world's largest insurance company and the epicenter of one of the biggest bailouts ever.

The authors divide their account into two parts separated by Greenberg's resignation from his leadership positions in the company in early 2005 as a result of an orchestrated press campaign organized by then-crusading N.Y. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose own subsequent downfall was even more complete than that of AIG, which, in this presentation, he had worked so assiduously to destroy. The authors claim that what led to the 2008 bailout was the incompetence of the leadership that took over after Greenberg quit. His replacements are said to have lost sight of the significance of the risks incurred by the financial derivatives unit responsible for the credit-default swap business, the collapse of which forced the government's hand. Few of Greenberg's identified opponents, including AIG's outside directors, the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, and employees of the state's attorney general’s office, emerge with their reputations intact. Only now is the company emerging from government ownership, and the authors examine Greenberg’s career building the biggest insurance company in the world. A Korean War veteran, Greenberg brought Western insurance products to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, helped open China to Western finance, and provided indispensable, sometimes covert, services to the U.S. government.

A useful contribution to the ongoing shaping of the story of the recent financial crisis.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-1183-4587-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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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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