Book Bits | 9 May 2020

Ultimate Price: The Value We Place on Life
Howard Steven Friedman
Summary via publisher (U. of California Press)
How much is a human life worth? Individuals, families, companies, and governments routinely place a price on human life. The calculations that underlie these price tags are often buried in technical language, yet they influence our economy, laws, behaviors, policies, health, and safety. These price tags are often unfair, infused as they are with gender, racial, national, and cultural biases that often result in valuing the lives of the young more than the old, the rich more than the poor, whites more than blacks, Americans more than foreigners, and relatives more than strangers. This is critical since undervalued lives are left less-protected and more exposed to risk.

Economic Dignity
Gene Sperling
Interview with author via WBUR
The 33 million unemployment claims paint a picture of a U.S. economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
But those numbers don’t give us the most important measure, says economist Gene Sperling, former economic adviser to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
He says we ought to focus on what he calls economic dignity, which is also the title of his new book. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the idea in his famous speech at the Memphis sanitation workers strike in 1968.
“He not only said that all labor has dignity, but he said that the sanitation worker was as essential as the physician,” Sperling says. “This is the moment where that has become very real.”

Peter F. Drucker on Economic Threats
Peter F. Drucker
Summary via publisher (Harvard Business Review Press)
How to adjust to shifts in the economy? In these forty salient essays, renowned management thinker Peter F. Drucker explores how social, political, and economic contexts impact the manager’s role. Considered against the backdrop of the twenty-first-century marketplace, with its breathless pace, complex political issues, economic threats, and ruthless global competition, the book’s wisdom and insights are classic Drucker: timeless, prescient, and practical. Arguing that management is charged not only with responding to the complex economic issues of the day but also with meeting the needs of customers and employees, Drucker addresses a wide variety of topics that touch on both the professional and the personal aspects of managing in a changing world

Dynamism: The Values That Drive Innovation, Job Satisfaction, and Economic Growth
Edmund Phelps, et al.
Summary via publisher (Harvard U. Press)
Nobel Laureate Edmund Phelps has long argued that the high level of innovation in the lead nations of the West was never a result of scientific discoveries plus entrepreneurship, as Schumpeter thought. Rather, modern values—particularly the individualism, vitalism, and self-expression prevailing among the people—fueled the dynamism needed for widespread, indigenous innovation. Yet finding links between nations’ values and their dynamism was a daunting task. Now, in Dynamism, Phelps and a trio of coauthors take it on.

Insights from the Boardroom: Herman Daems on Corporate Governance
Herman Daems
Excerpt via publisher (Lannoo)
What does the board of directors of a limited liability company or not-for-profit organisation actually do? What does the board chairman or woman do? What exactly is expected of a board
member? And how is the role of a board of directors or, to use a more academic term, a governing body, likely to change in the future? These are all questions which I address in this book. I have in fact been wrestling with some of these points for many years and, to be perfectly honest, I still haven’t entirely made up my mind about everything. However, I am far enough along the road with my thinking to be able to put forward some useful answers.

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