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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“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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