JAPAN WITHOUT BLINDERS

COMING TO TERMS WITH JAPAN'S ECONOMIC SUCCESS

A British MP's cleareyed and tellingly detailed assessment of just what the West is up against in its economic rivalry with Japan. Employing both statistical data and anecdotal case studies, Oppenheim effectively scotches any comforting notion that Japan's competitive edge has been built on monopolistic, even underhanded, practices—cartelization, government subsidies for key industries, protectionist policies that keep foreign companies out of domestic markets, patent infringement, etc. Instead, he insists, Japan simply has mobilized the country's scanty resources, human and otherwise, to achieve as well as sustain economic growth, in the process besting its trading partners at what once was their own game. What's more, the author shows, aggrieved adversaries—most notably, the US and EC members—are themselves increasingly reliant on dirty tricks (e.g., import barriers, antidumping strictures) to keep Japanese suppliers at bay. Whether voluntary or structural, he argues, restraints of any sort afford indigenous manufacturers a price umbrella and cost consumers dearly. At last count, Oppenheim points out, over one thousand multinationals had wholly or partially owned subsidiaries operating in Japan; many (including the blue-chip likes of Coke, Dunlop, IBM, McDonald's, and Schick) had gained dominant positions in their chosen markets. In the meantime, he observes, Japan is undergoing demographic, fiscal, political, and societal changes that could create genuine opportunities for patient, disciplined enterprises to compete with their Japanese counterparts at home as well as offshore. Nor does the author deem the Pacific Basin colossus a commercially irresistible force. Drawing on an object lesson from the past toward the close of his cautionary, contrarian text, he recalls how UK forces in WW II Burma eventually wrested victory from defeat by appropriating and adapting the jungle-fighting tactics of their Japanese foes. A sobering analysis whose timely message is summarized by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar: ``The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves....'

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 4-77001-682-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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