The Power of Nothing to Lose: The Hail Mary Effect in Politics, War, and Business

William L. Silber. Morrow, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-301152-6
“Downside protection in politics, war, and business favors the ‘deciders’,” writes former NYU business professor Silber (The Story of Silver) in this unsatisfactory survey of decision making. Studying the risky “go for broke” phenomenon, he finds that it is “a surprisingly powerful weapon for understanding behavior under uncertainty in life.” The ensuing examination is full of accessible anecdotes: he describes such historical figures as Woodrow Wilson and his hesitation to enter WWI out of fear of damaging his chances at reelection; Rosa Parks, whose belief that as long as Jim Crow laws lasted, “I had nothing to lose”; and Hitler’s ill-fated gamble on the Battle of the Bulge. Silber also considers asylum seekers who “hazard death to escape persecution and poverty,” and prisoners serving life sentences who are made into model citizens when given “something to lose.” But the anecdotes never coalesce into an illuminating whole, and the idea that risks with a large payoff are tempting feels like a truism. Fit neither for established or aspiring leaders, this is an easy one to skip. Agent: Richard Abate, 3 Arts Entertainment. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/09/2021
Release date: 08/17/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-6651-0139-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-6651-0140-0
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-301154-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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