Audie Award Nominee, Business and Educational, 2013
Born in Italy, University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales witnessed firsthand the consequences of high inflation and unemployment - paired with rampant nepotism and cronyism - on a country’s economy. This experience profoundly shaped his professional interests, and in 1988 he arrived in the United States, armed with a political passion and the belief that economists should not merely interpret the world, but should change it for the better.
In A Capitalism for the People, Zingales makes a forceful, philosophical, and at times personal argument that the roots of American capitalism are dying, and that the result is a drift toward the more corrupt systems found throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world. American capitalism, according to Zingales, grew in a unique incubator that provided it with a distinct flavor of competitiveness, a meritocratic nature that fostered trust in markets and a faith in mobility. Lately, however, that trust has been eroded by a betrayal of our pro-business elites, whose lobbying has come to dictate the market rather than be subject to it, and this betrayal has taken place with the complicity of our intellectual class.
Because of this trend, much of the country is questioning - often with great anger - whether the system that has for so long buoyed their hopes has now betrayed them once and for all. What we are left with is either anti-market pitchfork populism or pro-business technocratic insularity. Neither of these options presents a way to preserve what the author calls the lighthouse” of American capitalism. Zingales argues that the way forward is pro-market populism, a fostering of truly free and open competition for the good of the peoplenot for the good of big business.
Drawing on the historical record of American populism at the turn of the twentieth century, Zingales illustrates how our current circumstances aren’t all that different. People in the middle and at the bottom are getting squeezed, while people at the top are only growing richer. The solutions now, as then, are reforms to economic policy that level the playing field. Reforms that may be anti-business (specifically anti-big business), but are squarely pro-market. The question is whether we can once again muster the courage to confront the powers that be.
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Enjoyable but a tad predictable.
I found Jonathan Davis's performance distracting and not in keeping with the subject matter. He sounded like a newscaster who, faced with subject matter he doesn't understand, projects extra confidence. Still, it was a minor problem.
I wanted to like this book, but I found it reiterated many points and arguments which have appeared in other publications. If you follow economics and general news blogs you won't encounter much which is new.
This was non-fiction, so Davis didn't need to distinguish between different characters.
I thought Zingales explained his problems with public private partnerships quite well. For those who aren't familiar with the material, this would actually be a great introduction.
Zingales is totally correct when it comes to the merits of his arguments. For someone who isn't familiar with the general critique of crony capitalism, rent seeking, etc., as it is practiced in the US, this book should open some eyes.
An Urgent Wake-up Call for Business Educators