A valuable briefing on an underappreciated business problem, but it could use a bit of Roosevelt’s hard-nosed attitude.

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THE CURSE OF BIGNESS

ANTITRUST IN THE NEW GILDED AGE

Should Amazon and Google be broken up like Standard Oil? Yes, argues legal scholar Wu (Columbia Law School; The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, 2016, etc.), but breaking up is hard to do.

The problem is a decadeslong warping of antitrust law, which the author details in this half history, half polemic book. The title comes from a phrase coined by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who agitated against Gilded Age monopolists like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. Together with President Theodore Roosevelt, who put enforcement muscle behind the Sherman Act, they persuasively argued that monopolistic practices are inefficient, stifle innovation as well as competition, and court abusive practices against workers. (Think of AT&T, Wu suggests, a longtime state-sanctioned monopoly whose breakup cleared the way for the mainstream internet.) For much of the 20th century, Brandeis' view was accepted regulatory practice, until the arrival in the 1960s of Robert Bork, who, as a federal judge, prescribed an exceedingly narrow interpretation of the Sherman Act: So long as consumer prices didn’t rise, no conglomerate qualified as a monopoly, regardless of market share. The Borkian argument, however far afield from Sherman’s intent, is now gospel, Wu writes, rendering Security and Exchange Commission antitrust regulators toothless. This has allowed Google to bloat with buyouts—though, as Wu points out, it was a beneficiary of antitrust enforcement against Microsoft—developing unchecked acquisitive instincts that have eliminated competitors, with Facebook and Amazon following its lead. The author convincingly draws parallels between the new “tech trusts” and the Gilded Age titans, but one wishes for more fire in the argument: Wu’s background about Brandeis is important, but the modern implications could be better woven into his narrative. As it is, his strongest cases for breaking up Google are tucked into dry concluding policy prescriptions.

A valuable briefing on an underappreciated business problem, but it could use a bit of Roosevelt’s hard-nosed attitude.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997454-6-5

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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