For the numerate and fiscally wonky, an accessible survey that does a fine job of reallocating past, present, and future.

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MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING

HOW FINANCE MADE CIVILIZATION POSSIBLE

A financial economist’s view of credit, investment, speculation, and other matters of the pocketbook.

The study of finance is traditionally the finest layer of dust on the stack of arid tomes devoted to the dismal science. The Cyndi Lauper echo of the title aside, Goetzmann (Finance and Management/Yale School of Management; co-editor: The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations that Created Modern Capital Markets, 2005, etc.) doesn’t exactly shift the discussion into pop territory. However, his book is more accessible than many in the field, positing that the instruments of finance have done more than their share to make civilized life possible. The author invites us to consider that a principal effect of finance is to travel in time: that is, finance “reallocates economic value through time,” linking present and future while also shifting the burden of risk to allow investors and states to do such things as build infrastructure. Finance also involves an increase in social complexity, requiring alphanumeric language for record-keeping and bureaucrats to keep track of things, so that finance is responsible for state-building. Among the earliest financial documents we have, writes Goetzmann, are clay tablets recording impossible debts denoted by absurdly gigantic numbers: “The ability to imagine and then to express such vast quantities,” he writes, “would not have been possible without the leap of mathematical abstraction in the Uruk period.” So, too, with Chinese record-keeping systems involving great quantities of grain offered in tribute by great numbers of people. Throughout, in perhaps an accidental theme, Goetzmann’s narrative offers numerous examples of the inequalities wrought by financial systems, whether the medieval practice of “tax farming” or the speculative schemes floated by a well-known Founding Father. Of considerable interest is the author’s brief closing look at future possibilities for financial regimes, such as a sovereign wealth fund to bolster some version of social security.

For the numerate and fiscally wonky, an accessible survey that does a fine job of reallocating past, present, and future.

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-14378-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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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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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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