Have you ever read a well argued essay or op/ed on a topic, felt yourself persuaded, but then wondered, “I wonder how a really informed person on the opposite side of the argument would respond?”
I ask that question a lot. It’s disappointing there are not many books which, in their format, enable a multi-voice conversation that’s full of respectful disagreement.
Creative Capitalism by Michael Kinsley is, however, one of these essay-books. It opens with Bill Gates’ Davos speech on how the free market doesn’t perfectly serve the world’s poor, and what for-profit companies should do about that. Then there’s a conversation between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates on the topic of CSR and related themes. Then there’s a slew of essays in response by all sorts of super smart people like Richard Posner, Gary Becker, Brad DeLong, Robert Reich, Larry Summers, and of course Kinsley himself (who’s always worth reading). Best yet, Kinsley gives people the opportunity to respond to responses — Posner rebuts Gates, Ed Glaeser challenges Posner, Posner responds again.
If you’re interested in whether a for profit company should try to “do good,” what Milton Friedman meant by the invisible hand, and whether capitalism needs to be tweaked in some way to make sure the world’s poor are best served, check out Kinsley’s book.
1 comment on “Book Short: Creative Capitalism by Michael Kinsley”
Ben, thanks for profiling this book. Sounds great, I’ll definitely check it out. I spent 7 years in the non-profit world before doing my MBA and joining P&G in finance so I love wrestling with this question. I wrote a post on the topic back in ’09 exploring the question of whether or not Amazon could “go good” if they wanted to. Here is the link for anyone who is interested: http://afinanceguy.com/dan-sweet/could-amazon-go-good/ I think “the shareholder” is often used as a copout and am challenged by the companies that choose to operate differently.