Useful reading for business owners and attentive consumers.

COMPETITION OVERDOSE

HOW FREE MARKET MYTHOLOGY TRANSFORMED US FROM CITIZEN KINGS TO MARKET SERVANTS

An exploration of how many of us feel “increasingly uneasy about the results of unbridled competition.”

In their latest collaboration, Stucke (Law/Univ. of Tennessee) and Ezrachi (Competition Law/Univ. of Oxford), who co-authored Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy (2016, etc.), parse the theory of competition within a society, delineating how sometimes the positive aspects of competition—e.g., in choosing a college, on supermarket shelves, regarding hotel prices, etc.—can spiral downward, becoming a menace. Because competition has been sold for centuries as an unbridled positive, reading this book requires counterintuitive thinking and an open mind. Using a lucid, conversational style, the authors thoroughly explain each case study and anecdote. Does competition regularly result in a race to the bottom? Yes, the authors maintain, and they present ideas about how to achieve what they term “noble competition,” in which sellers, buyers, and society at large all benefit. One homespun example of noble competition can be found at local farmers markets, where, for example, a few local growers of tomatoes offer quality produce grown organically at reasonable prices. Each grower wants to earn the most cash on a given Saturday, but there is nothing destructive about the friendly competition. On the other hand, in one of the book’s most effective sections about negative competition, in which almost everybody loses, the authors examine big-time college football. Dollars that could have been allocated to improving academics on campus instead end up going toward exorbitant coaches’ salaries and luxury boxes for wealthy alumni. Consequently, colleges engage in an arms race to see who can provide the most impressive facilities or pay their coach the most. The authors also offer persuasive studies about how too much competition can lead to consumer paralysis, and they clearly demonstrate how advocates of untrammeled competition successfully lobby against government regulation, thus causing harm to the general citizenry.

Useful reading for business owners and attentive consumers.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289283-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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