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 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020


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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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