cover image A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

Luigi Zingales. Basic, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-02947-1

Zingales, a finance professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and coauthor of Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists, presents a striking dichotomy: most Americans endorse the free market system, but fear the power of big business. In an engaging if imprecise argument, he suggests that channeling “populist anger” can reinvigorate the “power of competition” and reverse the movement toward a “crony system.” Pro–free market beliefs are reflected in U.S. history, Zingales shows: contrary to world norms, here democracy preceded industrialization, and the mobility of the frontier encouraged personal initiative. As the government’s role in the economy has exploded, however—between 1900 and 2005 the fraction of GDP controlled by government rose eightfold—big business has turned this to its benefit. Zingales maintains that disenchantment with the bank bailouts of both the Bush and Obama administrations makes today a potent moment for the public to demand systemic reform, and persuasively demonstrates the urgent need for action. However, the specifics of his proposed remedies—including “equality of opportunity,” enhanced competition, market-based ethics, lobbying restraints, and public access to economic data—are vague rather than a clarion call. Of more value is his insight that intellectual and economic freedom are intertwined, and that business schools and academics can promote the common good by encouraging true competition and truly free markets. Agent: Eric Lupfer, WME. (June)