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A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity Hardcover – Jun 5 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 5 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465029477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465029471
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #310,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Foreign Policy
“[Zingales’s] ringing denunciation is the Capitalism and Freedom of our time.”

David Brooks, New York Times
“An influential book.”

Steven M. Davidoff, New York Times

Bloomberg View
“[F]ascinating…. Zingales provides an enormous service by laying out such persuasive evidence.” 

National Review Online
“[A Capitalism for the People] is the book that hits closest to the mark on the question of where the American center-right ought to go in the next few years.” Sacramento Bee
“Zingales offers more than rehashed Friedman or Hayek. It’s a book that should appeal to tea partyers and the Occupy Wall Street crowd.”
 Publishers Weekly
“Zingales…presents a striking dichotomy….engaging.” Financial Times
“Zingales’s fundamental diagnosis is right….[T]his remains a stimulating essay on the nature of American capitalism and the issues that will determine the pace of America’s relative decline.” Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen“I know you have book fatigue, popular economics book fatigue, policy book fatigue, and books-with-subtitles-like-this fatigue, all at once.  But this book is really, really good.  It hits all the right notes, is clearly written, and refers to academics as the new crony capitalists.  I agreed with almost all of it.  If I had to pick out one book, of this entire lot of books, to explain what is going on right now to a popular audience of non-economists, this might well be it.” J. Bradford DeLong, University of California, Berkeley
“More than 30 years ago, Milton and Rose Director Friedman raised high the banner of small-government free-market libertarianism with their Free to Choose. Now, a generation later, income inequality is substantially higher, the globe is even more interconnected, and our partial financial deregulation has backfired badly. Luigi Zingales thus has a harder task as he tries to update the small-government free-market libertarian position for the 21st century. But he has done a very good job at it.”
 Robert J. Shiller, author of Finance and the Good Society
“This remarkably creative book, driven by a strong moral conviction, offers a bold array of ideas for us to ponder, so we can really make the American capitalist model work better for everyone.”
Edmund S. Phelps, Director, Center on Capitalism and Society, Columbia University
“In A Capitalism for the People, Luigi Zingales joins the small but influential group of economists who see that America’s economy is now more and more corporatist, less and less capitalist. His impressive account of our downhill slide is enriched by his deep knowledge of the harm wrought by the worst excesses of Italian crony capitalism. A must-read.”
 Nell Minow, co-author of Corporate Governance and co-owner and board member of GMI Ratings
“An especially accessible and holistic assessment of what went wrong in our financial markets and an especially thoughtful and constructive proposal for the future.  Highly recommended!”
 Paul Ryan, U.S. Congressman, Wisconsin
“In A Capitalism for the People, Luigi Zingales exposes the pernicious collusion of big business and big government – offering the sharp analytical perspective of a world-renowned economist and the unique personal perspective of an immigrant living the American Dream.  This must-read for policymakers and citizens alike serves as a lucid call to action for rediscovering what makes America exceptional.”
 N. Gregory Mankiw, Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics, Harvard University, and author of Principles of Economics
A Capitalism for the People is a wise, deep, and timely book.  With lively prose, Zingales diagnoses what is right and wrong with the U.S. economy.  Whether your political sympathies lie with the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, or someplace in between, you will learn much about how we can best promote an economic future that works for all of us.”

The Economist
“[A]n elegy to the America (Zingles) found when he moved here 24 years ago.”

Washington Post
“[An] accessible and powerfully argued book.”

John R. Talbott, Huffington Post“[O]utstanding….I give the book my ultimate compliment; it is so full of new and innovative ideas that it makes you pause and think on every page.” National Review“[W]e are fortunate to have an Italian-born economist so powerfully and persuasively defending America’s once exceptional free-enterprise system.” Co.Exist, a blog of Fast Company “Zingales is readable, engaging, and full of insight. A Capitalism For The People is worth the time of anyone, left or right, who cares about the future of the American market system.” Adam Ozimek, Modeled Behavior, a blog on
“[A Capitalism for the People is] unquestionably insightful and thought-provoking, and it has plenty of smart policy recommendations….I do strongly recommend A Capitalism for the People to anyone looking for a robust and pragmatic vision of free market economics directed at current problems.”

LA Progressive“Zingales is excellent.” Iain Martin, The Telegraph“[A] brilliant and important new book.” Mechanics Institute Library
“[Zingales] provides a forceful look at how pro-business forces overwhelmed the pro-market principles that made American capitalism great, and how we can get it back on track. This book should have a wide readership, from the Occupy Wall Street crowd to Tea Partyers.”

The American Conservative
“Zingales hits a winning note….Zingales offers a refreshing and improved program for saving capitalism.”

About the Author

Luigi Zingales is the Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.  He is a faculty research fellow for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a research fellow for the Center for Economic Policy Research and a fellow for the European Governance Institute. He is the Lead Independent Director of Telecom Italia and the Vice President of the American Finance Association. He is the co-author of Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists and a contributing editor of City Journal.  He lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa7645090) out of 5 stars 58 reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6f6b2e8) out of 5 stars great book June 15 2012
By MxM - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Luigi Zingales' book is fascinating. Once I started it, I could not put it away and finished it in two days. Zingales presents a clear, comprehensive (and scary) analysis of the unhealthy relationship that has developed in the US between big business and politics, and its nefarious effects on competition, incentives, the lives of ordinary people, and the American Dream.
Many blame "capitalism" for the financial crisis. Zingales argues and demonstrates that there is an enormous difference between "capitalism" and "the capitalists", and between "pro-market" and "pro-business" choices and policies. It is the capitalists and pro-business policies that are to blame, not capitalism. Pro-business choices have favored the incumbents (rich people). As a result, outsiders (ordinary people) have seen their opportunities reduced, their shot at the American dream denied. The book argues that we need to put a stop to the cozy relationship between politicians, Wall Street and big business. Zingales demonstrates (with logic and plenty of examples) that we need pro-market policies that foster competition and meritocracy, and which ultimately benefit ordinary people.
This is a great book. I strongly recommend it to anyone who cares about the future of America, from supporters of (true) capitalism to Occupy Wall Streeters.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6f803a8) out of 5 stars A brilliant and principled critique of the Left and Right, from the Libertarian Right June 29 2012
By Lawrence - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Zingales is an Italian who loves the best part of America. He writes with authority (economist at the University of Chicago business school) about the great threat to America: A corruption of its core engine of prosperity -- a free market. That corruption comes not from Reds in high places: It comes from the collusion successful capitalists engage in with dependent politicians, producing a bevy of regulations that happen to protect the successful, and block the competitors. Zingales applies this analysis to a wide range of policies, but none as important as a causes of the collapse on Wall Street. Critically important and perfectly timed: Read and recommend this book!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6f6e2f4) out of 5 stars Important work documenting the woes of crony capitalism Aug. 20 2012
By DFechter - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Suppose you learned that in 1998 Citicorp planned to merge with insurance company Travelers, despite the fact that such a merger was illegal under the Glass-Steagall Act, which blocked banks from owning businesses in other financial sectors such as investment banking and, yes, insurance. You might ask, why would Citicorp press on with the merger? Luigi Zingales, in his well-footnoted book, reports it was because they "had enough discussions [with the Fed and the Treasury] to believe this will not be a problem."

Suppose you also learned that Robert Rubin, then the Secretary of Treasury under President Bill Clinton, was lobbying for changes to the Act that would remove the restrictions on banks. (Such a bill passed in 1999 with a bipartisan majority of 343-86.)

You still might not find that too outrageous. There were, after all, reasonable arguments against the Glass-Steagall restrictions and even today there is controversy over their advantages and disadvantages.

But finally you learn that Rubin left his post at the Treasury Department exactly one day after the bill passed (he had actually resigned 6 weeks before) and just 108 days later he was hired by Citigroup (yes, the firm he had helped through his lobbying efforts to change Glass-Steagall) for a salary of $15 million a year and, as author Luigi Zingales points out, "without any operating responsibilities."

It was not, as Zingales points out, illegal. But was it right?

Consider it Exhibit A in the case Zingales makes against "crony capitalism," the unholy alliance of business and government. "Business" may be commonly perceived to be in the camp of the Republicans but, as Zingales shows, crony capitalism is perhaps the most successful ongoing bipartisan effort since the fabrication of the first pork barrel.

That is how we end up with Dwayne Andreas, once the CEO of food and commodities giant Archer Daniels Midland, buying Jimmy Carter's peanut warehouse and, a few years later, selling Bob Dole an apartment in Bal Harbor, Florida. (Andreas' Wikipedia page reports that he is "one of the most prominent political campaign donors in the United States, having contributed millions of dollars to Democratic and Republican candidates alike.")

Similar examples abound in Zingales' systematic documentation of how the US economy has gone from "pro-market" capitalism to "pro-business" cronyism. Our overly large federal government has spawned an explosion of lobbying, influence peddling and corruption. Zingales astutely points out that the "Occupy" and the "Tea Party" movements are actually aligned against the same opponent. The Occupiers may focus their wrath on business and the Tea Party on government, but to Zingales they are two sides of the same coin.

Zingales, a professor of Finance at the University of Chicago, is particularly sensitive about crony capitalism. He immigrated to the United States from Italy specifically to escape the corruption of the Italian system, in which getting ahead was a function of who you know and not what you know. Corruption is the norm. In an amusing but telling example Zingales says that if a mayor in Italy advised the citizens to tape their windows, as an American mayor did in advance of stormy weather, Zingales would have ignored the advice, assuming the mayor's brother was selling tape.

Zingales is a capitalist, a believer in the free market. In his view, however, many of the elements which enabled the free market to create so much wealth while generating so little resentment in the United States are shifting unfavorably. He highlights the undermining of support for the free-market system driven by increases in inequality for reasons other than meritocracy. As Zingales says, "the perception...that the system is rigged."

One manifestation of this "rigging" is the bailouts. Zingales devotes a chapter to detailing how the increasing involvement of the government in the economy, through spending and regulation, and the increasing coziness of government with the businesses it was ostensibly regulating, led almost naturally to the use of taxpayer money to bail out financial institutions in crisis. (And not just financial institutions, as evidenced by the multiple bailouts of the auto industry.) All of which is harmful both to popular support for what is called "the free market" as well as to the operation of the market itself.

Zingales is at his best documenting how we have gone astray. The book is filled with examples and anecdotes and supplemented by Zingales' insight as an economist, explaining exactly how these developments are harmful.

He provides several recommendations, which make up about half of the book. His proposals are a mix of traditional solutions, such as school vouchers to improve education and improvements in bankruptcy laws to restore the balance between borrowers and lenders, and some creative ideas such as "retooling vouchers" to reward schools based on their success in actually finding new jobs for the unemployed workers they train. He has a host of proposals designed to "promote" competition (such as "reinventing" antitrust to focus not on market power but on political power).

As a member of academia, Zingales believes business ethics should be featured more prominently in business schools. He would like to see opprobrium become the social norm for unethical business behavior as opposed to the current culture of turning a blind eye or even rewarding it.

Finally, Zingales desperately wants to reduce the influence of lobbying on the political and economic landscape. While he makes a convincing case that lobbying should be curtailed, his proposals do not inspire confidence. He calls for "public shaming" of companies which abuse lobbying. He believes in an increase in the use of class-action lawsuits. The reality is that as long as government remains large and intrusive, lobbying will be a problem. Reducing the size of government, and therefore reducing the rewards from lobbying, may be the best hope.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6f449b4) out of 5 stars A Book for All of Us June 11 2012
By Ann Westchester - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am not a finance person or an economist or an academic, just a self employed American who likes to be informed and have some grasp of what is going on in our country. Mr. Zingales has written an extremely insightful and provocative book that would appeal to all of the above vocations as well as me. Born and raised in a rather corrupt Italy, he reminds Americans how our country became so strong in the first place and offers solutions to get back on track. It is akin to learning a foreign language in that by learning about the mechanics of the Italian Government, one learns more about the Government in America. He uses current events to illustrate his ideas which helps puts things in perspective and keeps the read fresh and relatable. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the state of our nation.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa77e4bd0) out of 5 stars A fresh new take on current US affairs June 18 2012
By Eataly - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am also Italian and I also lived in Chicago for the past 4 yrs. Reading Zingales is like a revelation to me. Everything I thought has been formalized and written down by Zingales. Both the corrupt state of our home nation and the worrying trend in the US towards crony capitalism. He is able to clarify the difference between pro-market and pro-business. e analyzes the differences between Occupy WS and the Tea Party movements, being able to synthesize their frustration against crony capitalism. I also think that this book teaches Americans how lucky they are and how easy it is to lose the "top spot", from tech innovation to academics. It is a book I would suggest to anyone, especially those who define themselves "democrats", because this book proposes new solutions that are market-friendly to old social problems like healthcare, inequality and environment. Mitt Romney should read it as well btw.