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Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Other Economic Leaders Hardcover – December 2, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The content of journalist, editor, and author (The Best of Slate, 2006; Please Don’t Remain Calm, 2008) Kinsley’s fifth book is somewhat of a novelty in its physicality and its subject matter. The content was generated after the “creative capitalism” speech by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, via a series of responses, rejoinders, and reviews threaded through a blog. Interesting, too, is the actual substance and the timing of this publication; the question is, after all: Should a corporation do good and still own up to its fiduciary responsibility of maximizing profits? The conversations here are wide-ranging and fluid, captured from contributors with no small credentials—Harvard and MIT professors, former U.S. government officials, at least one Nobel Prize winner, and other foundation heads. Although no conclusions are reached, the dialogue is stimulating and the questions numerous: Isn’t regular capitalism good enough? Does being recognized as a good citizen make a difference? Yet timing plays a huge part in the answers: How will the current economic downturn impact these “do good” inclinations? --Barbara Jacobs

About the Author

Michael Kinsley is a noted journalist and political commentator. He was one of the most successful editors of The New Republic magazine. He was the host of CNN’s Crossfire and founded Slate, the nation’s first online magazine. He also served as the editorial page editor for The Los Angeles Times and has written for The Guardian and the New Yorker. He is a regular contributor to Time magazine. Michael currently lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Patty Stonesifer, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Conor Clarke is a fellow at The Atlantic Monthly and a former

editor at The Guardian.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141659941X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,511,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In 2008 Bill Gates advocated that big corporations integrate doing good into their way of doing business. "Creative Capitalism" begins with that proposal, and follows with a number of individual comments, both pro and con.

Gates points out that capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. Thus, there needs to be another market-based incentive - recognition.

Recognition enhances a company's reputation and appeals to customers; it also attracts good people to the organization.

Potential Creative Capitalism Mechanisms: Tiered pricing (eg. for vaccines used in both the developed and third world) is one existing mechanism. Priority for approval reviews of a for-profit drug can be offered to companies that also develop a new drug for a neglected disease such as malaria.

Warren Buffett, normally a strong Gates supporter, however, had other perspectives. He pointed out that emotional public reactions can be a problem - eg. donations to pro-choice efforts. Further, corporations donating a specified percentage of profits/revenues to "cause X" are only successful in the short run, though they do raise awareness.

Michael Kinsley raises other problems. Eg. giving priority in new drug approval reviews begs the question of "Why the delay to start with?" Perhaps it is due to important cautionary concerns; or, it simply may reflect a need for an improved review process or the need for greater funding. Then there's the manipulation potential - eg. ExxonMobil spent 3X as much publicizing its support for Masterpiece Theater as it did for the actual support.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There are basically two teams in this match of ideas, with several participants trying to referee. On one side are the economists by trade, who are very skeptical about non-market criteria in economics. On the other side are the non-economists who believe the art and science of economics needs to be broadened, but are unclear on how this can be accomplished. Notably, I found the most refreshing approach of the many experts participating in the blog offered by perhaps its youngest contributor – the student Kyle Chauvin – who argued how we need to expand the reach of traditional, or profit, capitalism, not only around the world but to the overlooked corners of the developed world as well.

Unfortunately, the two sides never really converge in this debate and I suppose that may be why the conversation disappeared from public discourse (only 7 reviews?). Both sides accept some common premises that need to be challenged in order to break out of the box we find ourselves in on these issues.

These premises derive from the neoclassical school of economic theory that laid the foundation for general equilibrium theory in macroeconomics. Specifically, actors within the economy are classified according to a loose application of factor analysis, so we have workers, entrepreneurs and small business owners, corporate firms and managers, investors, savers, lenders, borrowers, consumers, and political actors. Then we lump these categories into producers, savers, and investors on one side versus consumers, workers, and borrowers on the other. The consensus seems to settle on the idea that some people produce and so policy should empower this production.
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This was an easy read with short readable chapters. The discourse was smart and witty and the contributors consist of some of the most brilliant minds of our time. This was a great book to read for business people, entrepreneurs, and politicos. I truly enjoyed the dialogue, the format, and the subject matter, and it gave me a lot to think about.
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