New book: The Economics of Integrity: From Diary Farmers to Toyota, How Wealth Is Built on Trust and What That Means for Our Future, by Anna Bernasek *99 (Harper Collins)

The author: Born in Boston and raised in Sydney, Australia, Bernasek is a financial journalist and contributing columnist for The New York Times. Her reporting on finance and the economy also has appeared in The Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, Fortune, and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald. She has been a commentator on CNN and CNBC. Last week she lectured at Princeton about her book, which was published last February.
The book: What does the delivery of safe milk have in common with financial reform? According to Bernasek, both need systems to ensure trust and integrity – which are necessary for an economy to run efficiently. And good behavior – “doing the right thing” – leads to good business, argues the author.
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By examining various industries (from car factories and dairies to banking), she reveals the layers of trust involved in even the simplest transactions and why integrity broke down in the financial crisis of 2008.
Review: Economist Robert Shiller wrote for PBS Newshour: “This book is a reminder that our economy functions as it does not just because of a profit motive, or because of regulations, but also because, fundamentally, people believe in what they are doing and have a personal sense of integrity. Our milk is safe to drink … not primarily because some regulator is imposing penalties on milk producers who do it wrong, but because all those workers from the cow to the supermarket just know that somebody will drink this milk, and intrinsically want to do their job right.”