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Book Sessions ans Thought Labs

 

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism

The global financial crisis has made it painfully clear that powerful psychological forces are imperiling the wealth of nations today. From blind faith in ever-rising housing prices to plummeting confidence in capital markets, “animal spirits” are driving financial events worldwide. This session will challenge the economic wisdom that got us into this mess, and put forward a bold new vision that will transform economics and restore prosperity.
This session will reassert the necessity of an active government role in economic policymaking by recovering the idea of animal spirits, a term John Maynard Keynes used to describe the gloom and despondence that led to the Great Depression and the changing psychology that accompanied recovery. As Keynes knew, managing these animal spirits requires the steady hand of government – simply allowing markets to work won’t do it. In rebuilding the case for a more robust, behaviorally informed Keynesianism, this session details the most pervasive effects of animal spirits in contemporary economic life – such as confidence, fear, bad faith, corruption, a concern for fairness, and the stories we tell ourselves about our economic fortunes – and show how Reaganomics, Thatcherism, and the rational expectations revolution failed to account for them.
Animal Spirits offers a road map for reversing the financial misfortunes besetting us today. Learn how leaders can channel animal spirits – the powerful forces of human psychology that are afoot in the world economy today.

 

Climate Change: New Perspectives and Challenges from Neuroeconomics

Neuroeconomics is a relatively new field that bridges neuroscience and economics. Neuroeconomics uses brain imaging to uncover the neurobiology of decision making. Early applications focused on financial decision making under risk, but more recent uses have extended its use to decisions that are relevant to climate change. Three aspects of decision-making are important: 1) how the brain computes costs and benefits for environmental decisions; 2) how the brain makes decisions when the outcomes are delayed in time by decades; and 3) how the brain integrates social effects into its valuations and decisions.

According to current neuroeconomic data, time discounting in humans results from the interaction of at least two systems, one which is capable of anticipating and caring about the distant future (prefrontal cortex), and the other which is much more oriented toward the present (OFC-striatal). Within these same circuits, current evidence suggests that the brain converts all types of outcomes (financial and other) to a common neural currency. Understanding the interplay between temporal discounting and neural currency yields new insights into how to shape policy for individual decision making. Finally, understanding how social pressure affects these internal valuations may help leverage the use of social networking to guide individual choice. For example, it is possible to utilize brain imaging technology to discriminate between conformity that is merely in action and conformity that is generated by changes in preferences.

 

McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in 1989, governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by forecasts of limitless expansion into newly open markets. No one would foresee that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the globalization of organized crime. Current estimates suggest that illegal trade accounts for nearly one-fifth of global GDP.

McMafia is a fearless, encompassing, wholly authoritative investigation of the now proven ability of organized crime worldwide to find and service markets driven by a seemingly insatiable demand for illegal wares. Whether discussing the Russian mafia, Colombian drug cartels, or Chinese labor smugglers, it will be made clear how organized crime feeds off the poverty of the developing world, how it exploits new technology in the forms of cybercrime and identity theft, and how both global crime and terror are fueled by an identical source: the triumphant material affluence of the West.

Tracing the disparate strands of this hydra-like story, involved talking to police, victims, politicians, and members of the global underworld in eastern Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, China, Japan, and India. The story of organized crime’s phenomenal, often shocking growth is truly the central political story of our time. McMafia will change the way we look at the world.


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