Review: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

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C. K. Prahalad

5.0 out of 5 stars Nobel-Level Work Essential to Understanding Our Bright Future, October 29, 2014

Sadly, the author is deceased. I have always considered him a contender for the Nobel Prize.

I am upset with Amazon for not carrying over reviews from past editions — new readers are advised to look up older editions of any books if they wish to take advantage of some of the extraordinary material provided by past reviewers. I will not replicate those other reviews — they are worth finding.

This book review should be read together with my review of Stuart Hart’s Capitalism at the Crossroads: Next Generation Business Strategies for a Post-Crisis World (3rd Edition) which points to several other related books, and Kenichi Ohmae’s book,The Next Global Stage: Challenges and Opportunities in Our Borderless World (paperback). All three are published by Wharton School Publishing, which has impressed me enormously with its gifted offerings.

Here’s the math that I was surprised to not see in the book: the top billion people that business focuses on are worth less than a trillion in potential sales. The bottom four billion, with less than $1000 a year in disposable income, are worth four trillion in potential sales.

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Oct 29

Review: Fusion Economics – How Pragmatism is Changing the World

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Laurence Brahm

5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense Community-Based Economics, October 25, 2014

Laurence Brahm is one of those unsung heroes who was changing the world for the better, and influencing various governments in most positive ways, long before ecological economics and social enterprise became fashionable turns of phrase. I regard him as the anti-thesis to the predatory capitalism mantras and methods of our time. His proven focus on community development and evolutionary blends of state planning and market incentives is precisely what we need now that everyone understands that Western governments have been corrupted and Western economies destroyed by financial interests devoted to extracting value instead of creating value. This is a practical book, a spiritual book, and one that should be required reading among those intent on creating collaborative economies and social enterprises.

His recommended gradualist evolutionary approach is ethical and focused on stable transformation, not rapid looting by foreign bankers.

Quote (41): The fundamental failure of ivory tower cookie-cutter models, for all of their theoretical perfection, is that they ignore local conditions, culture, mindset, and historical burdens.”

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Oct 25

Review: Designing a World that Works For All – Solutions & Strategies for Meeting the World’s Needs – 2005-2013 Labs

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Medard Gabel

5.0 out of 5 stars Co-Creator with Buckminster Fuller of the Analog World Game, The Gold Standard for Serious Games 4.0, September 4, 2014

Medard Gabel, co-creator with Buckminster Fuller of the analog World Game, and architect of the digital EarthGame(TM), is “root” for anyone who wishes to do holistic design, true cost economics, serious games, and open source information-sharing and sense-making. He is too little known, very modest, and does not get the deep attention that he merits.

I have participated in his design seminars, and am always thrilled at how well they work. Everyone starts out working on “their” problem, generally an issue in isolation, and around the middle of the week-long seminar, all the different teams experience the “aha” moment when they realize that they cannot succeed in isolation, that all the challenges need to be addresses by everyone working together.

For me Medard Gabel is the “gold standard” and none of the serious games, however well-intentioned they might be, can be helpful beyond their narrow niche for lack of the holistic understanding and the information-sharing and sense-making architecture that Medard provides for — mostly human, not technical at all. As Russell Ackoff likes to say, what is good for one part of the system might be very bad for all the other parts — Comprehensive architecture and prime design — all threats, all policies, all demographics — are essential to our moving past the toxic industrial era of reductionsim and separation that we have fostered these past two hundred years.

I rate this book, because it is a collection of the best of the best from past books, some of which I reviewed at the time, at six stars instead of five.

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Sep 4

Review: Creating a Learning Society

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Joseph Stiglitz, Bruce Greenwald

4.0 out of 5 stars Glass Half Full — Cannot Be Ignored But Also Off the Rails, September 4, 2014

Among all economists in the English language, I hold Joseph Stiglitz to be among the most enlightened and virtuous. When I formed a “dream” coalition cabinet in 2012, he was on it. His co-author is of less interest to me — finance geeks have been demonstrably impotent these past fifty years — and particularly those who fall prey to mathematical formulas lacking in social integrity — and I believe with book would have been stronger had Stiglitz either gone it alone, or collaborated with an educator such as Derek Bok. The book is also rooted in old lectures, starting in 2008, and it is focused on Kenneth Arrow’s work, which is best appreciated on its own merits. See, for example:

Moral Hazard in Health Insurance (Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series)
The Limits of Organization (Fels Lectures on Public Policy Analysis)
General Competitive Analysis, Volume 12 (Advanced Textbooks in Economics)

The weakest point of this book, which does indeed have much to offer for anyone who cares about the future of academia, commerce, governance, and society, is that is “assumes” integrity on the part of the government, and that industrial policies are somehow going to corrupt deep ethical and intellectual failings across all major forms of organization (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit). This is the same mistake made by Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update and the Club of Rome. The *losing* alternative to the Limits to Growth assumption that top-down government would deal responsibly with climate change and other high level threats focused instead on education from the bottom up — the central point of Will Durant’s 1919 doctoral thesis, now available as Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition.

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Sep 4

Review: Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions)

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Elinor Ostrom

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014

I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.

On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.

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May 28

Review (Guest): Governing the Commons – The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

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Elinor Ostrom

4.0 out of 5 stars Addressing the Collective Action Problem August 2, 2007

By Matthew P. Arsenault

Ostrom attempts to refute the belief that only through state and or market-centered controls can commonly pooled resources (CPRs) be effectively governed. Ostrom writes, “Communities of individuals have relied on institutions resembling neither the state nor the market to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long periods of time” (p. 1). Governing the Commons sets out to discover why some groups are able to effectively govern and manage CPRs and other groups fail. She tries to identify both the internal and external factors “that can impede or enhance the capabilities of individuals to use and govern CPRs.”

The first section of the book examines both state-controlled and privatization property rights regimes, and illustrates failures in both regimes; namely, that central authorities often fail to have complete accuracy of information, have only limited monitoring capabilities, and possess a weak sanctioning reliability. As such, a centralized governing body may actually govern the commons inaccurately and make a bad situation worse. In the case of privatized property rights regimes, Ostrom illustrates two main points: 1) it assumes that property is homogenous and any division of property will be equitable; and 2) privatization will not work with non-stationary property (fisheries, for example).

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Apr 28

Review (Guest): Working Together – Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice

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Elinor Ostrom, Army R. Poteete, and Maroc A. Janssen

5.0 of 5.0 Stars An inspiration for Transdisciplinary Researchers By Herbert Gintis on June 7, 2010

This book, which is based on the several decades of research by Nobel award winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom and her talented colleages, vigorously asserts two messages with equal fervor. The first is that “it is possible for individuals to act collectively to manage shared natural resources on a sustainable basis.” (215) The second message is that the existing structure of academic disciplines in the system of higher learning deeply handicaps researchers from attaining true insights of this type. The possibility of people managing their own common pool resources through democratic and egalitarian participation was determined through research “based on field studies, laboratory and field experiments, game theory, and agent-based models,” and no discipline recognizes the legitimacy of models that span such a broad range of statistical, qualitative thick description, formal analytical and computer simulation methods.

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Apr 28