A sharp, ethically sound endorsement for capitalist reformation.



Insights about how to restructure American capitalism to better benefit society.

O’Leary, a former economic policy adviser and a member of the founding team of Bain Capital's social impact fund, and Valdmanis, the former managing director of that fund, join forces to evaluate an economy that is distressingly dominated by corporations “accountable to nothing but the bottom line.” Though the authors celebrate the prosperity achieved by a capitalistic economic system, they also note the downsides and present achievable methods to alter corporations’ “explicit amorality” in the interests of humanitarian efforts. After a short history of capitalism and the greed-based concept of fiduciary absolutism, the authors analyze the potential for corporations to channel their power toward more philanthropic and ethical consumer concerns. It won’t be easy. As they note, this purposeful restructuring will require a high level of commitment to employees, customers, and the communities they serve. Indeed, the corporate balancing act between profitability and humanitarianism has become one of the greatest challenges for corporate strategists. The authors also skillfully appraise the worthiness of divestment strategies and the rise of lucrative impact investing, which “straddles the worlds of philanthropy and private equity.” We meet a variety of enterprising CEOs, academics, investors, and business leaders—from startups to Fortune 500 companies—eager to share their blueprints for success. In the closing chapters, both persuasive and enthusiastic, O’Leary and Valdmanis outline three proposals for creating “corporations that reflect our values.” One of their case studies is Etsy, a company in which accountability is the lynchpin in an endeavor the authors describe as a journey to “build an economy that generates prosperity without peril.” An illuminating teaching tool for readers new to the nuances of the American economic climate, as well as seasoned economists eager for an update, this is a trenchant text on how capitalism has warped over time—and why it is time for a much-needed structural change.

A sharp, ethically sound endorsement for capitalist reformation.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297651-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


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


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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