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Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists: Unleashing the Power of Financial Markets to Create Wealth and Spread Opportunity Hardcover – February 18, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rajan and Zingales take the Chicago school of economic theory in a new direction with an erudite, comprehensive defense of the free market system, steering a course between conservative isolationists and liberal antiglobalizationists. Only unfettered markets, rather than protectionism, they argue, can provide an environment supporting competition, innovation and economic growth. When businesses suffer losses or fail completely, it means competition is successfully weeding out the incapable-and the authors have nothing but harsh words for governmental attempts to prop up sagging industries through subsidies or tariffs on foreign competitors. They're honest in acknowledging that their "tough break" approach to failure offers little consolation to downsized laborers, but gamely suggest the economically "distressed" should recognize their options and look beyond obfuscating corporate rhetoric about "saving jobs." The book draws strong historical parallels between the half-century market clampdown following the Great Depression, when the public recoiled at the consequences of unmanaged economic risk, and the pessimism fostered by recent high-profile failures and corporate excesses. Because the authors view political support for the free market system as always tenuous, they offer suggestions on how to combat antimarket sentiments by promoting a stronger international market, which would reduce the ability of economic "incumbents" to persuade governments to suppress competition while offering workers some protection against the risks of failure. They argue their case well (though general readers may find some of the more academic passages tough going) and provide a clear new definition for the terms of the free market debate.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The authors, both professors of finance at the University of Chicago's graduate school of business, take an in-depth look at the advantages and shortcomings of free financial systems in a historical context. They argue that although free markets are often reviled, especially during economic downturns, the inherent risks involved and the propensity for some individuals and corporations to corrupt the system can be overcome somewhat. When markets are suppressed, as happened after the Great Depression, competition is stifled, and trade tariffs that are intended to benefit individual nations ultimately harm worldwide economic health. What role, then, should governments play in overseeing financial markets? Historically, so the authors show, respect for individual property rights is the essential first step, and when property is available to the widest classes of people who can actively manage it, the groundwork for free financial trading is laid. For advanced financial systems such as that found in the U.S., the authors propose a balanced approach of government participation, including both measures to provide incentives for free markets and insurance for safety during times of crisis. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1st edition (February 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609610708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609610701
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Insightful, interesting and thought-provoking. Must read-even for a non-finance expert like me.
As a "lay" reviewer I strongly echo Business Week's recommendation that Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists is a great book for "the rest of us". The book starts off by explaining why free financial markets are critical and what the role of the financier is. (Many of my friends in Corporate Finance and Investment Banking should at least read this part as it explains what they do, why it is important and why they deserve the big bucks much better than they have ever been able to explain it to me!)

The book then goes much deeper to unpeel the layers of the onion and explain how financial markets develop, what conditions are required to keep them vibrant, what risks they face and who has vested interests in their development. This is key value of the book as I see it. The authors made me think more deeply about the capital markets that I take for granted. For example it seemed surprising to think of "saving" capitalism from capitalists, but after reading the book I must concede that the authors have a point. The very capitalists who initially benefit from capitalism are the ones who stand to lose the most if competition (i.e., new capitalists) enters their markets. Thus they incumbents are likely to vociferously oppose open markets--often masking their vested interests in the guise of humanitarian concerns like the working conditions of third world labor.
The book is very easy to read and the authors pull the reader along by summarizing their arguments intermittently. They encompass both developed and developing countries in their analysis and support their arguments with interesting examples from world history ranging from 13th Century Europe to modern day corporate America.
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Format: Hardcover
It is refreshing to see experts explain cutting edge ideas in a way that is accessible to all. This book explains why the free markets are important to all of us and why we cannot take them for granted. It also spells out in convincing fashion why the free markets are often at risk from those who at first might be considered their strongest supporters.
It is important for the common person to understand the forces at work and their own self interest so that they use their political force towards their own and the greater good. It is also very usefull for policy makers in designing systems that are not only more effecient but that are more resilient to subversion and grounded in stronger political support.
As an investment professional, this book is interesting as it points to the need to move away from the paradigm of free markets and unbridled competition to generate above average profits. The extent and liklihood of participants actually subverting the free market process and competition should be a part of the analysis in projecting long term profitability of sectors and companies.
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Format: Paperback
This book will be many things to many people at the same time. Economists can use it as a primer in empirical finance that will provide an overview of the field by two scholars who greatly contributed to its expansion. Business school students will appreciate the many case studies that illustrate the theoretical points and provide models for business ventures. More politically inclined readers will find a political tract in the tradition of Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom, only with a different twist: the enemies that capitalism needs to be warded off against are not well-intentioned promoters of the welfare state - in fact the authors have kind words for European-style social protection - but the capitalists themselves, who may abuse their position of power to stifle competition and shackle markets. The book is also as essay in comparative economic history, shedding light on the fate of the Templars in early fourteenth century Europe, the transformation of the English monarchy under the Tudors and the Stuarts, or industrial development in Mexico and Brazil at the turn of the twentieth century. It is, above all, a paean to unbridled financial markets and an apology of their contribution to wealth generation.

Rajan and Zingales see the main threat to capitalism as coming from an unholy alliance between incumbent elites, bent on protecting their rents against competition, and distressed workers who suffer from the process of creative destruction. To those who might object that this alliance seems highly unlikely, the authors object that it has happened before, and that it had long-lasting results, explaining in effect the contrasting trajectories of Europe and the United States in the twentieth century.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is not exactly a secret that Zingales was on the lookout for an economic advisory role with Romney before he lost the election. Right before the election, he went on a speaking tour to promote his book, A Capitalism for the People. I read it after attending one of his speaking events for Booth alums in NYC and found it the best of the worst of Chicago thinking.

What is good and true is the discussion of how power interests have corrupted our market economy. I particularly liked his analysis of why anti-trust law is important in the chapter "Crony Capitalism American style": not because it distorts prices but because it allows firms to grow to be mega firms who can bend the state to their own will. His observation is subtle, astute and hits the mark.

The poverty of his analysis shows up on p. 156 in his explanation of why competition does not cure predatory lending. Most people do not pay attention to their finances, he says. From there, his argument takes a "right turn." What we need is to reinstate generalized trust. To have generalized trust, we must simplify everything so that the system becomes more transparent again.

But, Zingales has just conceded that market capitalism is not self-adjusting. Competition doesn't prevent those who trust from being victimized or the sharpies from cornering the good stuff. Zingales has no idea of how to motivate the folks running the machinery amok to do the right thing. Alas, his prescription "be more moral" addresses symptoms, not causes. To the contrary, the logical conclusion of his analysis is to trust less. Or, as Reagan said, trust but verify.

I don't agree that most people do not pay attention to their finances. Most people do not understand finance. Including most finance professors.
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