PhD, Economics, Hebrew University, Israel
MA, Economics, Hebrew University, Israel
BSc, Mathematics/Economics, Hebrew University, Israel
Dr. Reuven Brenner was appointed to the McGill Faculty of Management REPAP Chair in Economics in 1991. Before joining McGill, he was Professor at Université de Montréal and Associate Fellow of the Centre de recherche et développement en économique, lectured at the University of Chicago, New York University and the Hebrew University. He was also associated for seven years with DUXX, Monterrey, Mexico. Brenner was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, was awarded the Canada Council's prestigious Killam Fellowship Award in 1991, and is member of the Royal Society. The book - Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics - dedicated a chapter to his works. Forbes Global, August 1998, dedicated the cover article, titled "Leapfrogging," to his books and endeavours. In February 2013, he has been awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to his peers, his community, and to Canada.
Dr. Brenner has taught courses in Microeconomics and Applied Microeconomics, Monetary Theory, Industrial Organization and Topics in International and Corporate Finance. In the Faculty, he currently teaches courses on topics in International and Corporate Finance in both the undergrad and MBA programs. He has been the recipient of various teaching awards over the years.
Risk-taking, creating wealth (by companies) and prosperity (by countries) have been among Dr. Brenner's research interests. He is the author of eight books: History-The Human Gamble (University of Chicago Press, 1983), Betting on Ideas: Wars, Invention, Inflation (University of Chicago, 1985), Rivalry: in Business, Science, Among Nations (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Gambling and Speculation (Cambridge University Press, 1990), Educating Economists (University of Michigan Press,1992, with David Colander), Labyrinths of Prosperity (University of Michigan Press, 1994), A Financial Century (Stoddart: 2001), which came out later in the US under the title The Force of Finance (Thomson/Texere) in 2002. His 8th book, A World of Chance: Betting on Religion, Games, Wall Street (Cambridge University Press) came out in 2008.
Rivalry and Betting on Ideas were chosen to be among the outstanding academic books published in the US (Choice, June 1989 and May 1987) and, as noted above, his books were also the subject of a cover article in Forbes, London Literary Times, among others. In addition to specialized academic journals in economics, history, political science, finance, his books were reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, London Times, Smart Money, Boston Globe, New York Times. There have been a number of TV and radio programs broadcasted in both the US and Canada dedicated to his work alone. Brenner has been a regular contributor to publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, Forbes, The Financial Post, Asia Times, Strait Times (Singapore), Figaro (Paris) and others. Brenner has also been keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He is Fluent in English, French, Hebrew, Hungarian.
Over the years he also worked among others with Bank of America, Knowledge Universe, EEN, Bell Canada, Repap Enterprises, WEFA, Heenan Blaikie and with investors in Canada, Mexico, the US and Europe. He has been involved in the private equity markets as partner in Match Strategic Partners, has been associated with “angel groups” investing in start-ups across Canada, and also created his own start-up, "e-mortal.com," sold in 2008. He has also been serving on boards of companies and institutions; among others he serves now on McGill University’s Pension Fund’s Board and its Investment Committee.
Books > History/Politics
History – the Human Gamble, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983 (Spanish Translation: La Historia: Albur del Hombre (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura, 1990)
Description: History/ Human nature/ Anti-semitism/ Usury laws/ risk, uncertainty
History – the Human Gamble ranges with ingenuity and vigor over topics as diverse as the rise of Western Civilization, gossip, and the role of the artist. It is a highly personal book, a distillation of the author’s own view of human nature, the world and human history that discusses such current subjects as the causes of anti-Semitism and choices of occupations among minority groups. Brenner view of human nature and the sequences of events he examines point against historical determinism, and leads to the title of his concluding chapter – “Happy People Do Not Have a History.”
Sample of Reviews:
“A most provocative book. I hope it will be received with the attention it deserves.” – William McNeill, University of Chicago, Department of History, 1983
“The book, History – the Human Gamble, is both brilliant and interesting.” – Thomas E. Borcherding, The Claremont Graduate School
“This intriguing book offers a theory of historical innovation and change … smart and entertaining … full of interesting and valuable arguments.” – Margaret Levi, Politics and Society, 1986.
“Exciting and rich.” – Steven Maser, American Political Science Review, 1985
“With Brenner, [one] will have a general theory of historical causation that can be provocatively be compared to other such theories as the Marxist and the cyclical. Red meat for curious minds!” – Richard Harvey, Teaching History, 1985
“But is it History? After reading Brenner’s analyses of historical motivation/explanation one puts the book down with mixed reactions. Its very unconventionality makes it attractive and stimulating. Brenner is more than an economics oriented student of the past … the title of the last chapter is “happy people do not have a history.” The book is in fact replete with a number of philosophical, religious, and sociological statements which will be insights for some readers, gratuitous commentary for others, and for others still, including this reviewer, a combination of both.” – David H. Burton, Best Sellers, January 1984
“One might be skeptical of any book which claimed so vast a domain. In this case, however, they would not be disappointed: it is about those topics and more. Economists should read Brenner’s book.” – Lionel J. Robison, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, August 1984
“Not every slim book offers a “theory of history.” … As one might expect, such a labor is morally inspired.” – Alan Sica, American Historical Review, December 1984
“I found it fascinating to read.” – James Buchanan, George Mason University (Nobel)
“It is an original approach to a number of highly important problems. The author develops theoretical implications of his analyses, and tests them in various ways, some of them ingenious.” – Gary S. Becker, University of Chicago (Nobel)
“Brenner’s is what is so rare, an original contribution.” – T.W. Schultz, University of Chicago (Nobel)
“The framework that Brenner develops is extraordinarily interesting …His last chapter may leave the reader breathless or even aghast … but it does fit in nicely with the whole approach of the book.” – Douglass C. North, Washington University (Nobel)
Betting on Ideas, Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1985, 1987
Description: Brenner applies here his unique view of human nature – what he called the “leapfrogging instinct” to a wide range of facts and sequence of events ranging from wars, inflation to changes in inheritance laws over centuries, among others.
Sample of reviews:
Betting on Ideas is an ingenious and erudite creation, easily as much so as History - the Human Gamble. Its appeal is to a wide audience: historians, economists, sociologists, and anthropologists, among others. And like its predecessor, the book's greatest value is as a general, truly novel paradigm.
Economics does not contain much that is this general. One thinks of Schumpeter, Marx, Weber, Veblen … But none really try to explain everything from old people playing lotteries to dictators starting wars. The only thing I know really like this is not in a single book, but is parts of economic analysis which purport to claim things, like Adam Smith’s assertion that markets are natural because all men have an “instinct to truck and barter.” – Jonathan Hughes, Northwestern University
“Certainly one of the most unusual and mind-challenging books I have read in a long time.” – G.O.W. Mueller, Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University
“This is a very clever book which can be read with pleasure and profit. The book is a pleasure to read because it displays such dazzling erudition. In out teaching and research most of us labour in fairly delimited areas. Brenner, in contrast, ranges across institutional areas, and centuries, and continents, with remarkable aplomb: from lottery ticket purchases in today's Quebec to the evolution of inheritance laws in Europe, to eighteenth-century painting, to inflation, and so on. And in so doing he ornaments his work with impressive array of illustrations drawn from literature and culture more generally; from Troilus and Cressida early on, to the musical taste of Glenn Gould at the end. It is worth reading this book because it is fun. Sociologists can read this book with profit as an example of what an intellectually defensible model in the social sciences should look like...Brenner does build a choice theoretic model. That he has not said the last word on the subjects to which he applies his model is beside the point. At least he starts from the right place.” – Michael R. Smith, McGill University, The Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12, 1987
“In Betting on Ideas, Reuven Brenner extends the insights into human behavior under uncertainty he first put forth in History - the Human Gamble (1983) by applying his theory to war, inflation, creativity and the history of French inheritance laws ... Having found the first book ingenious and fascinating, yet terribly frustrating, I can now report that the second work is equally ingenious and fascinating.” – John Nye, Washington University, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, November 1987
“It is … worth reading for the intellectual liveliness of its author and the gems of insight that he scatters. While Brenner strides vigorously into subject areas in which legions of sociologists have worked for years, without taking much notice of their work, the result is an occasionally exciting and creative foray across as broad a range of topics as one could wish.” – Richard C. Rockwell, Social Science Research Council, New York, Contemporary Sociology, April 1988
“In this sequel to his well-received book, History – the Human Gamble, (University of Chicago, 1983) Brenner expands upon his provocative theory of individual and collective risk-taking and innovation … With impressive erudition and ingenuity, the theory is applied to a diversity of social phenomena, including war and peace, inventions, gambling, crime, inheritance laws, progressive taxation, inflation and others.” – J. F. Zygmunt, University of Connecticut, Choice, May 1986
“In my opinion, people who have "theories of the world," are either dangerous crackpots or visionary geniuses. Reuven Brenner has a "theory of the world", which he has already expounded in his 1983 book, History - the Human Gamble, and on which he now expands in this second book. I cannot decide into which category Brenner falls - since much of what he says makes sense ... Perhaps Brenner is a visionary genius?” – John Hey, University of York, Economica, November 1987
“Outstanding academic book,” – Choice, 1987.
RIVALRY (Cambridge UP, 1987, 1989)
Description: Brenner applies his “leapfrogging” view of human nature to topics such as entrepreneurship, innovations, anti-trust and competition, advertising, among others.
Sample of reviews:
“Reuven Brenner understands far better than most industrial organization economists that the drama of competition is not confined to the narrow stage of standard theoretical models. Rather than the drama occupies a wider arena – one in which innovative personalities strive to outdo each other in a constant leapfrogging game.” – Franklin M. Fisher, MIT, Department of Economics
"Reading Brenner will illuminate the analysis of business behaviour, highlighting the need to understand the 'leapfrogging' game in any interpretation of a firm's rate of growth. Competition and risk are crucial phenomena affecting a firm's performance, and the human response must lie at the centre of any study of business history. This will make Rivalry an important text for anyone considering such issues." – J.F. Wilson, Business History
"This is an important book. Schumpeter would have been impressed." – Graham Bannock, Business Economist
"Rivalry, extensively researched and documented, is a badly needed, cogently argued, clearly written reaction against static, esoteric economic model building." – R.O. Werner, Choice, 1988
“Brenner’s new book deals with competition in its most intense and conscious form … Given the importance of strategic behavior to his framework, it is not surprising that he shifts the focus away from the abstract firm and to the entrepreneur ... Brenner brings to his subject a rich array of … evidence that provides stimulating reading. The book is fun to read “ – Roger Blair, Journal of Economic Literature, September, 1989
"The quest for a parsimonious theory of economic change is hardly novel. It is comparatively rare, though, that historical and contemporary fact are allowed to act as the judge of whether the theoretical enterprise should stand or fall. Reuven Brenner's Rivalry: In Business, Science, among Nations makes refreshing reading for its painstaking effort to provide empirical support for the argument." – Edward H. Lorenz, Business History Review
“Always interesting and, at times, fascinating.” – Ronald Bodkin, University of Ottawa, 1990.
“As with all of Brenner’s writing, it is lively and provocative.” – Julian L. Simon, University of Maryland
The Editor’s selection, The London Times, February, 1988
“Outstanding Academic Book,” Choice, 1989
GAMBLING AND SPECULATION (Cambridge UP, 1991; Spéculation et jeux de hasard: Une histoire de l'homme par le jeu (Paris: Presses Univ. de France, 1993)
Description: Brenner’s unique view of human nature – he calls it the “leapfrogging instinct” - sheds light on risk-taking, leaping into uncertainty, be it entrepreneurial, financial, criminal or mundane gambling. He backs his views with wide ranging evidence and sequence of historical events linked to gambling, speculation, insurance, as well as broader issues such as beliefs in Providence and Chance.
Sample of reviews:
It's hard to learn about gambling because different ideological camps define the subject differently and therefore talk past each other. People with moral objections to gambling usually ignore risk-taking in business and life, economists tend to focus on the probability and utility theory underlying a single bet rather than the broader social and economic context, and pro-gambling works often ignore basic mathematical and economic theory. This book is a rare exception in that it covers all kinds of risk taking without prejudice, and it is grounded in solid history and theory. This book defines the context in which gambling should be discussed, and presents a powerful opening statement. – Aaron C. Brown, AQR, New York
“Gambling and Speculation presents an intelligent advocacy position in favor of the legalization of gambling. It pulls together information that is fascinating from both an historic perspective and a traditional economic perspective. The book is a significant contribution to the growing body of serious literature dealing with the phenomenon of gambling.” - William R Eadington, University of Nevada, Reno; Director, Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming
“Brenner is one of the freshest writers I have read in economics, willing to introduce himself into his prose and express (sometimes outrageous) opinions. I like to read him." - Richard C. Rockwell, Social Science Research Council, US
"This is a novel defense of an unfamiliar proposition, advocating the legalization of gambling. The argument of the book is easy to follow and, as usual with Brenner, he is provocative and interesting. His historical remarks bring forth much that I did not know, and, needless to say, the theme of gambling and its appropriate social role is significant and topical." - William H. McNeill, University of Chicago, Department of History
"...a very provocative discussion which should prove enlightening to all readers. Given the current debate over lotteries in many states, this work is recommended reading for policy makers and lay readers who desire more background on this timely topic." - Roger Tutterow, Southern Economic Journal
“Brenner is a maverick economist ... who has written extensively on rivalry and uncertainty in a steady stream of books and articles since 1983. The most recent is Gambling and Speculation. He's well outside the mainstream of what university-based economists are doing, tackling topics far bigger than those with which economists are comfortable ... Do Brenner's notions fit the situation ...? Pretty well”. – (reprinted in D. Warsh, Masters and Mavericks of Modern Economics, Free Press, 1993) - David Warsh, The Boston Sunday Globe, August 5, 1990
“If the aim of the authors was to redress the balance with a clear, articulated historical economic account of gambling across the social spectrum, they have indeed succeeded. By taking a wider view of gambling and distinguishing it from similar activities such as speculation, and tracing attitudes and prejudices towards gambling in their historical context, it gives added depth to many of the arguments and assertions made throughout the book ... The book will appeal ... to lawyers, legislators, economists, statisticians and historians who will find the book useful and interesting ... However, other scholars (psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists, social anthropologists etc.) who are seriously involved in the study of gambling from all its perspectives should read it.” - Mark Griffiths, Journal of Economic Psychology, 1991
“The [governments] efforts to ban or restrict gambling, under an astonishing variety of pretexts, are documented with barely concealed scorn by Reuven and Gabrielle Brenner ... The Brenner's purpose is not simply to expose historical humbug. They advance their own theory why people gamble, and use it to argue for an increased social and legislative tolerance of gambling, as well as of speculation in stock markets ... If you believe the Brenners account of why people gamble, that could have important consequences for our economy and society as a whole.” – Paul Seabright, The Times Literary Supplement, Cover Article, December 14-20, 1990
“Some academic readers will perk up when the Brenners take on Kahneman and Tversky, two high-profile risk-assessment gurus. Interesting in content and perspective, Gambling and Speculation is a good bet for readers wanting a formal treatment of this aspect of human behavior.” - Victor Emerson, Weekend Observer, Ottawa Citizen, 28 July, 1990
“Brenner's is the best book ever written on gambling.” - David R. Steele, Liberty, September, 1997
EDUCATING ECONOMISTS (Michigan University Press, co-edited with David Colander, 1991).
Description: History of higher education/social sciences/ Popper vs. Kuhn/ economics (Brenner’s three chapters in the book are: “Making Sense out of Nonsense,” “Truth in Teaching Microeconomics” and “Truth in Teaching Macroconomics”)
Sample of reviews:
“I read the essay “Making Sense out of Nonsense” with interest and admiration. The breadth … is impressive … as well as having what strike me as very important things to say about the way human minds work and react to social circumstances.” - William McNeil, Department of History, University of Chicago
“I think the various articles in Educating Economists are right on target. A thought: In business schools the biggest wake-up call for economists might be to take the micro course away from economics and perhaps turn it into a team taught course or to have the course content be created by a team (management, marketing, finance).”- Roger Dickinson, University of Texas
“A fine, scholarly job … on the subject. I can’t remember when last time I read a paper [“Making Sense …”] with such pleasure, including every footnote.” - Herbert Grubel, Freie Universitat Berlin
“I am indebted for you for your splendid chapter [“Making Sense …”] I enjoyed reading it enormously. It contains such wealth of plain truth or, for some, hard truth.” - David L. Johnston, Governor General of Canada
LABYRINTHS OF PROSPERITY: Economic Follies, Democratic Remedies. AnnArbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1994
Description: Brenner applies his unique views of human nature and institutions to tackle topics a range of topics, such as: Democracy/ Direct democracy/ prosperity/ Keynesian policies/ monetary policy/ Russia’s transformations as well as a range of other historical events, among them, what makes for some societies to leapfrog others and become “miracles” – starting with the Dutch Republic in the 17th century.
Sample of reviews:
L'histoire personnelle de l'auteur mérite déjà d'être racontée. Roumain de naissance, Reuven Brenner a fui le communisme à l'adolescence pour rejoindre le nouveau monde. Aujourd'hui il aiguise son intérêt pour l'économie par ses enseignements et ses recherches aux États-Unis et au Canada. Mais ses opinions n'auraient pas franchi l'Atlantique dans l'autre sens sans un article qui lui était consacré dans un numéro de Forbes. Son intervention ne manquait déjà pas de punch mais son livre est d'une violence incroyable pour l'establishment universitaire du bien pensé économique.
On pourrait marginaliser Reuven Brenner en faisant un terroriste de l'économie politique mais ses arguments ne manquent pas de bons sens. Sa démonstration tient en deux temps. D'abord les agrégats macro-économiques sont inutiles car impossibles à mesurer sans une série de conventions qui dénaturent et enlèvent toute valeur au processus. Même l'indice des prix est loin d'être un repère objectif. Les agrégats sont ensuite nuisibles parce qu'ils tendent à concentrer l'attention sur des questions mal formulées. Par exemple, il ne faut pas statuer si les dépenses publiques (et les impôts qui en découlent) contribuent au développement économique. Il ne faut pas non plus statuer si les dépenses militaires ou l'investissement public par des infrastructures peuvent soutenir l'économie lors de crises. Il faut statuer au cas par cas si un projet est utile à la collectivité.
Or si les démocraties occidentales savent mieux que le communisme laisser des opportunités aux individus de prospérer par le commerce, elles ne savent pas proposer au suffrage universel ces questions pertinentes mais plutôt des choix globalisants sur les valeurs probables des hommes politiques. Aussi l'auteur se fait l'avocat du référendum d'initiative populaire pour statuer, en particulier, de l'utilité de la dépense publique au cas par cas. Pour défendre son point de vue, l'auteur démontre une grande culture d'histoire économique et met en valeur les villes-états (en particulier celles des Pays-Bas et d'Extrême Orient) et la Suisse qui ont su jouer la carte du développement par le commerce et la démocratie alors qu'elles étaient dénuées d'avantages géographiques.
Sur le plan littéraire, le livre n'est pas une réussite. Les chapitres sont une collection d'articles écrits indépendamment. Aussi les redites abondent-elles. Mais la force du message est telle que les faiblesses de forme doivent être pardonnées sans quoi il n'y aurait plus d'excuse pour ne pas attribuer un prix Nobel à l'auteur pour ce livre. - Professeur Jean-Philippe Papillon, 31 janvier 1999, Aglossa, France
“I have been reading your book. It’s delightful! I especially enjoy your comments on Barro and Solow. I think macro statistics are currently worse than useless, yet most empirical papers take the numbers as if given by a God. Actually my favorite example is the stock of physical capital, which is figured by a method (the perpetual inventory method) which makes absolutely no economic sense in a world of uncertainty ... But mainstream economists do not take criticism well.” - Fischer Black, Goldman Sachs, February 24, 1995
The gem of the book, and a wonderful lesson for economies at every stage of development, is the extended discussion of the Dutch economic miracle of the 17th century ... In a broad sense, Brenner is right-on in his conclusion. - Edgar R. Fiedler, Across the Board, New York Conference Board, March 1998
"Much that is written under the rubric of formal economics leaves readers innocent of actual economic life. Even more shocking, much of the subject matter has come to be disfigured by the crudest transgressions that have been protected by a façade of technique and Jargon. Labyrinths of Prosperity goes a long way toward correcting these errors of omission and commission.” - Steve Hanke, Johns Hopkins University
Labyrinths of Prosperity has several attractive features. Brenner shows how economists can draw on sociology, history and political science to supplement their analyses of the conditions of prosperity. The main text, written in plain but lively English, takes up about two-thirds of the book; the technical analysis and supporting data are relegated to appendices and notes. Let Brenner have the last word, in a passage that usefully summarizes and connects several of his main ideas: In spite of worrying about deficits, some economists are still trapped in Keynesian semantics and talk about the stimulus of deficits, of spending of public works (now called infrastructure) ... The issue is responsible governance ... rather than reliance on one or another economic theory, or one way or another of counting numbers. The theories are just frequently repeated opinions without foundations, and frequently the numbers bear no relationship to facts. The roads may lead nowhere, and the schools may produce illiterates with diplomas. - Michael James, Agenda, 1995
"Every once in a while an economist comes along who threatens to overturn conventional wisdom by pointing out that the basic tools of the trade - such as the official statistics used to fine-tune policy recommendations - are blunt and ineffectual instruments. Reuven Brenner is such an iconoclast among economists." - Judy Shelton, Hoover Institute, The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 1994)
"This book is so full of common sense that the academy will surely ignore it. In it, Brenner attacks many common orthodoxies about how societies should cultivate a prosperous society. These attacks focus on macroeconomic theory and practice, the design of democratic institutions, and central planning. The central thrust of the book is that all extant theories focusing on economic performance ignore basic fundamental tents of economic activity: people must take risks and innovate if an economy is to prosper." - John Williams, Comparative Politics, September 1995
The ongoing debate among political economists in the industrialized West over the impact of fiscal and monetary policy on economic growth has been joined by eastern Europeans who are struggling to set the future direction of their nations' economies. This controversy provides the setting for Reuven Brenner's new work, Labyrinths of Prosperity. Brenner's book is an insightful critique of macroeconomic analysis, adding fresh texture and flavor to the field of political economy ...What is the likely impact of Brenner's book? A nation wedded to economic statistics, such as the United States, will not likely give up reliance on macroeconomic data very quickly. Perhaps, at minimum, Brenner's work will promote greater public skepticism in their view of economic data. And his work is certainly another contribution to the literature arguing for a larger role of citizenry in the making of public policy. Shedding myths and the pretentious language of macroeconomics provides for a greater involvement in the great decisions of political economy. This is something needed in the industrialized West and the nations of eastern Europe. - John E. Berthoud, The Public Interest, Number 120, Summer 1995
Force of Finance, NY: Texere, 2002 (First Edition appeared under the title of: Financial Century, Toronto: Stoddart, March 2001).
Sample of reviews:
“Reuven Brenner is an expert on all things mysterious.” - Paul Volcker, 2015
"THE FORCE OF FINANCE" is an important new book that should cause investors to tear themselves away from their usual obsession with recession, earnings season and the accounting scandal du jour. It's one of those books that come along only once or twice in a generation — one with the power to redefine the way we understand the rules of the game of global economic growth.
The author of this remarkable book is Reuven Brenner, a professor of business at Montreal's McGill University. Brenner has no time for the usual conception of economics as "the dismal science," defined by British economist Lionel Robbins as "the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses." Instead, Brenner's economics is a joyful social science, based on his proposition that "prosperity is the result of matching brains with capital and holding both sides accountable."
"The Force of Finance" is a celebration of the ultimate un-scarce resource: brains, the unlimited creative power of human beings to build wealth. Brenner believes that the best brains from around the world will try to migrate to those countries and those industries where they can achieve their highest potential. For Brenner, that means they will seek the most highly developed and most open financial markets they can find, trying to match their brains with capital. He should know — born in Rumania in 1947 as the son of concentration-camp survivors, Brenner moved his own brain first to Israel, and finally to Canada.
"The Force of Finance" provides a template for how the architects of a new world order can allow capital markets and commercial institutions to create not only prosperity, but stability and freedom as well. - Donald Luskin, Smart Money, April 19, 2002, at www.smartmoney.com/aheadofthecurve/index.cfm?story=20020419
“A must read for anyone involved in international finance at the start of the 21st century.” - Jack Hennessy, Chairman and CEO, Credit Suisse First Boston
“Trenchant ... Reuven Brenner provides new insight into age-old truth on what determines whether nations prosper or fail - access to capital in free and open markets and accountability under a rule of law in a framework of democracy.” - Jack Kemp, co-director, Empower America
“Reuven Brenner's Force of Finance clearly shows how the democratization of access to capital in the United States created millions of jobs and the American economic miracle of the last 25 years.” - Michael Milken, philanthropist and Chairman of the Milken Institute
“Brenner has the knack for expressing what you think you know about economics, and reengineering it with unexpected flair and historical context, as well as the ability to take you what you confidently understand and snap the spine out of your assumptions... He invests his analytical powers in exploring how people actually behave instead of how they're supposed to behave. This sensibility - as much as his rhetorical firepower - makes his work uniquely appealing to enlightened managers and executives. Brenner gives his readers a framework - as well as a vocabulary - to make organizations rethink how they should use market mechanisms to manage themselves.
Brenner's overreaching argument ... offers a deeper - dare one say a richer - understanding of how people prosper ... Brenner's historical examples are smoothly argued, if somewhat polemical. But then, this is a polemical book. It is ammunition in the ongoing battle: legislators, regulators, and central bankers vs. the champions of market forces. In this battle, Brenner hunts big game and eviscerates his prey.
For example, Paul Krugman - the economist touted for a Nobel prize and a partisan New York Times op-ed columnist - is treated as a naughty little boy wonder who isn't quite clever or honest enough to fully understand the macroeconomic policies he champions, Brenner's ability to credibly condescend to one of the field's most arrogant figures merits special attention.
... Brenner believes that both as institutions of trust-generation and price setting, central banks are inherently incapable of generating policies whose benefits ultimately outweigh their costs. He is not a fan of macroeconomics and the statistical contortions central bankers must go through to rationalize past, present, and future policy impacts. Whether you agree with his arguments or not, they have an internal consistency that cannot be easily dismissed. Unsurprisingly, themes of trust - and the role trust plays in markets historically - dominate this book.
... The last chapter of ... the book is a tour de force. Superbly argued, strategically disrespectful. And with just enough sentiment to pass as inspiring, the intellectually honest reader will be impressed, if not persuaded, by the rigor of Brenner's rhetoric. I have seldom read a more potent case for why businesses need to rethink the trade-off between creating environments for innovation and systems of innovation.”
“The Force of Finance is an important contribution to the literature exploring why some countries prosper, and others fall behind. Every policymaker should read it. Many business people and investors will not only read it, but also factor Reuven Brenner's compelling argument into their investment decisions.” - Michael Schrage, co-director, MIT Media Lab, in Across the Board, NY Conference Board.
“A deeply original synthesis of finance, economics and politics… Money, capital markets, brain drains, direct democracy, corruption, crime and gold are woven together with skill to produce a stunningly original picture of the world. The argument that society is shaped by the imperative of access to capital, and that when one channel is blocked another opens, is used to explain a wide variety of historical and current events. You can dam the force of finance to change the direction of the river, but sooner or later, one way or another, the water will get to the sea.” - Aaron C. Brown, Morgan Stanley, New York, July 27, 2006
“This is an interesting book, exceedingly well written with cogent and forceful arguments. Brenner very effectively demolishes many myths. One of the insights that interested me was the clear relationship that Brenner made between political instability and the weakening of capital markets within countries … There is another important question that Brenner raises: Why have so few societies succeeded in developing democratised, deep and open capital markets? A five letter words answers that question – Trust … A Fascinating, insightful book.” - Chetan J. Parikh, Capital Ideas
“Reuven Brenner's book will be read with respect by economists, and with both pleasure and profit by the non-economists. A rare event!” - Irving Kristol, Publisher, The National Interest
“Reuven Brenner is an economist who thinks for himself and thinks deeply about the lessons of economic theory and history. His insights are original, provocative and edifying.” - Robert Bartley, Editor, The Wall Street Journal
“Appreciate that this book could become the most important and influential volume to cross the threshold of history into the 21st century. Its ideas will very much matter.” - William Kucewicz, Editor, Dow Jones (1998, commenting on the manuscript)
“No one since Joseph Schumpeter has done more than Reuven Brenner to put risk-taking and innovation at the center of economic theory.” - Steve Forbes
“This is a remarkable book. It challenges many conventional beliefs and established institutions. Readers will have to think through their own assumptions to contend with the author's own - a most rewarding exercise for anyone who takes up the contest.” - David Johnston, Governor General of Canada
“Nobody could ever accuse Brenner of sitting on the fence and by the end of this book you will have been introduced to a bunch of household names who would probably like to bury him under one. This ... book could teach The Economist a thing or two about free markets, but what really sets it apart is the body count as Brenner takes an axe to the reputations of some leading figures ... The world of Brenner ... is a simple one. Democracy is fine, but unless it is accompanied by open capital markets it doesn't mean a thing... So it's thumbs down to Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and Poland where closed markets are seen as the reason why the locals turned the military and religion into alternative power bases ... It's zero for Zaire, Nigeria, Angola and all other resource-rich countries that have squandered their assets and subsidize a corrupt elite that used the rents from resources to keep their people immobile, bringing some and forcing others into obedience. And it's must try harder for governments that experiment with disastrous policies that tax people's hopes, aspirations and ambitions...”
The more often capital markets are open, the easier it is for people to find financial backing. As new people find financial leverage they form new alliances, force debates, and reshape political coalitions, preventing anyone who reaches the top of the wealth pyramid from resting o his laurels for too long. Opening up capital markets disperses power and thus brings about de facto democracy. - Fitzgibbon - Sunday London Times Book of the Week
“Has market liberalism failed Latin America? “Yes”, is often the reply these days. Now though a new book turns the … argument on its head. In the Force of Finance, one of the world’s leading economists, Reuven Brenner of McGill University argues that the problem has been not “too much” of markets, but rather too little of them ... Mr. Brenner’s thoughts about natural resources, democracy and capital markets have important applications for policy in Latin America … But The Force of Finance has also global implications, especially for the Middle East. Its findings suggest that it is important to recognize that one of the main problems of the Middle East is the region’s oil, and that the denationalization of oil companies in the Gulf countries is an indispensable (if radical) step. But they also tell us that the Bush administration is wrong to assume that the Loya Jinga (Grand Council) process in Afghanistan will stabilize the country. Afghanistan needs not only voting, but markets … At a time when the US … finds itself back in the nation building business, it is this last point that is the most important. Democracy “on paper” is simply not enough.” - Amity Shlaes, Financial Times, August 1, 2002
“Reuven Brenner of McGill University breathes new life into the concept of free markets and, along the way, discredits the idea that macroeconomics is a proper method for assessing the mechanisms of economic development. The [book] is a restatement of some of the most “classical” ideas in economics, but it’s breathtaking in the sweeping rejection of large areas of economic analyses.” - Andrew Allentuck, The Globe and Mail, July 14, 2001
“Brenner, the Repap Chair in Economics at McGill University, has written one of the strongest business books of the year. The Financial Century examines the history and future of various economic trends, from globalization to higher education … Brenner has sounded off a wonderful and inspiring trumpet.” - Michael Taube, The Canadian Review of Books, November 2001.
“The Force of Finance is an important contribution to the literature exploring why some countries prosper, and others fall behind. Every policymaker should read it. Many business people and investors will not only read it, but also factor Reuven Brenner's compelling argument into their investment decisions.” - Lawrence Minard, Editor, Forbes Global
A World of Chance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Description: This is Brenner’s second volume where Brenner applies his unique view of human nature – he calls it the “leapfrogging instinct” – to shed further light on risk-taking, leaping into uncertainty, be it entrepreneurial, financial, criminal or mundane gambling. He backs his views with wide ranging evidence and sequence of historical events linked to gambling, banking, insurance, as well as broader issues such as politicians’ reliance on oracles, astrologers in the past, “macro-economists” these days (that he likens to astrologers), to rationalize policies when navigating in uncertain waters.
Sample of reviews:
"Did you know that the modern insurance industry is a direct outgrowth of gambling? Did you know that poker provided one of the most important sources of capital for penniless Western frontiersmen in the United States? Did you know that major opera houses of Europe began as gambling halls with the theaters attached (history, if not always the quality of music, repeats itself in Las Vegas)? Do you know the real reason the NFL resists the legalization of sports betting in America? For the fascinating answers and insights into the politics, the finance, and the economics of that over-maligned pastime, gambling, and, yes, including the surprising role it has frequently played in finance - read A World of Chance. The odds are strong that you will love it." - Henry G. Manne, Dean Emeritus, George Mason Law School
“In a series of books beginning in 1983 with History: The Human Gamble and culminating with his latest volume, A World of Chance: Betting on Religion, Games, Wall Street , Brenner yanks economics inside-out by placing risky behavior at the center of the economic model.
Conventional economics describes an artificial world of slight deviations from equilibrium; Brenner presents the real world, in all its danger and uncertainty. Man lives not only by the sweat of his brow, but by the fortitude of his intestines, for survival demands that we take mortal leaps of a kind that are unknown to the conventional model. Men who would prefer to be timid risk everything to leapfrog their peers before they themselves are left behind.
Rather than award yet another Nobel Prize to an economist who put bells and whistles on the conventional model (Princeton University Professor Paul Krugman was honored this past weekend ''for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity",) the Swedish Academy should have honored Brenner, who gives us a model that makes sense in the real world of tumult and uncertainty - 2008 should have been Brenner's year, given the cataclysmic breakdown of the conventional model.” - Spengler, Asia Times, October 15, 2008
"The relationship between gambling and finance (let alone religion and politics) eludes even the most erudite among us because it is clouded in misunderstanding, prejudice and good, old-fashioned politics ... This book ... proposes a risk-taking model, uses it to disentangle the relationship between fortune and providence, democracy and autocracy, chance and mobility. It is a tall order, but despite some problems, it succeeds admirably." - Nikoalos Zahariadis, Perspectives on Politics, Volume 7: Issue 03: September 2009, pp 708-709.
“A World of Chance puts up a stout defense of gambling both as a form of entertainment and source of hope, and states that it should be privately run but government regulated. State monopolies – as with all monopolies – merely result in higher prices and less innovation. The book does an excellent job of disassembling all the bogus arguments for keeping lotteries and other forms of gambling under state control, and in particular highlights the self-interested nature of the assault on internet gaming, which is a threat neither to national security nor public morals.
Both gambling and financial speculation have tended to be objects of moralistic suspicion and condemnation by authorities who have felt threatened by the philosophical questions raised about an uncertain world, and by the alternative sources of wealth, and thus potential political power, that risk taking fosters. Nevertheless, the authors point out that “Don’t gamble” doesn’t appear among the Ten Commandments. It’s not a sin. Indeed the gambling instinct has proved a fundamental economic driver.
Moreover, the notion that the “real” economy can somehow be de-linked from the “financial” economy, they point out, is both delusive and dangerous. One of the book’s most delightful analogies – into which I wish it had delved further – is between witchdoctors throwing bones to indicate some special relationship with the fates, and the entrail-like equations of Keynesian macroeconomists. Unfortunately, economics’ answer to astrology seems to be making a comeback amid universal magic incantations of “shovel-ready stimulus.”
The authors display a wealth of scholarship and some wonderful quotes, including Groucho Marx’s claim that: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” At the moment, that is almost too true to be funny. The authors note that risks inevitably sometimes lead to tears, but remind us that a world of risk-taking has produced wonders, and will continue to do so after the present crisis is over. You can bet on it.” - Peter Foster, Financial Post, January 16, 2009
“Finally a book that brilliantly analyzes the machinations related to gambling. A work like this has been missing.” - Henry Loehner, Internationale Bibiliographie die Glucksspiels im Casino, Germany, 2008
Articles > History/Politics
“Blood libels in Europe, Asia, Africa,” Asia Times, 2017
“How civilization went from dueling to tweeting,” Asia Times, 2017
“Prohibiting the Pursuit of Happiness: Lessons of Experience,” Centre for the Thought of John Paul II, Warsaw, 2016, and Konrad Adenuer Center
“The Longshoreman Philosopher Saw Trump Coming,” Wall Street Journal, 2017
“The Needles’ Eye,” First Things, 2012
“Our Muddled Masses,” First Things, 2010
“The Rule of law and the wealth of nations,” First Things, 2009
"The Phoenix Will Rise," National Review, September 12 2006
“Unsettled Civilizations,” Asia Times, 2003
"Perception and Reality: Oiling the wheels of a tribal society," Asia Times, 2003
“Financial Options of Countries Wanting a Divorce,” IRRP, Montreal (in English and French), 1995.
"Canada: Failure of Promised Land," ''Polyconomics'', June 1998, pages, reprinted at www.cagecanada.ca/Business_vs_Government.php
"Unlocking Canadian Capital," Testimony before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, Ottawa, Wednesday, November 24 1999, reprinted at oldfraser.lexi.net/publications/books/capital_gains/section_13.html
Interview: Blackelectorate.com, Part II, September 26 2002
Interview: Blackelectorate.com, Part I, September 25 2002
“Leapfrogging theory,” Forbes, August 1998, cover article
Articles > Monetary and Fiscal Policies
“Towards a new Bretton Woods agreement,” New York, American Affairs, 2017
“Dismiss macroeconomic myths and restore accountability,” New York, American Affairs, 2017
“Eurozone bonds: Learning from pre-nuptial agreements,” Washington, American Enterprise Institute, 2012
“Bernanke, Summers, Krugman: the high priests of macro-strology,” Part 1, Asia Times, 2015
“Bernanke, Summers, Krugman: the high priests of macro-strology,” Part 2, Asia Times, 2015
“The Treasury’s little buddy,” Washington, The International Economy, 2013
“The Keynes Conundrum,” First Things, 2010
“The 1930s All Over Again?”, Washington, American Enterprise Institute, November 2009
“Dollar Bears,” Wall Street Journal, March 18 2008
“US dollar: Accidents Waiting to Happen,” Cato Journal, May 2005
“Comments on Barro’s Convergence,” in B. Zycher and L.C. Solmon, Economic Policy and Financial Markets, San Francisco: Westview Press, 1913
Articles > Venture Capital/ Finance/ Options/ Patents
“Venture Capital: How it takes to have an “innovation”-targeted policy,” Warsaw, Presidential Palace, 2016, reprinted at www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_48075-1522-1-30.pdf?170301200023
"Venture Capital in Canada: Lessons for Building (or Restoring) National Wealth," (with Gabrielle A. Brenner), Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Vol. 22, Issue 1:86-98, Winter 2010, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1581818 (updated version of 2008 testimony before the Canadian Federal Government Commission).
“Must all patents last for twenty years?” Wall Street Journal, 2013
"Gambling has been falsely demonised for centuries," Financial Times, October 4 2006
"Patents, Tort And Antitrust- A Deal? ," Blackelectorate.com, November 27 2002
"Another Option on Options," (with Donald L. Luskin), Wall Street Journal, September 3 2002
“Options, Options,” American Spectator, May/June 2002
"Land of opportunity," Forbes, October 12 1998, cover article
Articles > Education/ Economics/ Social Sciences
“Accelerate Education,” New York, American Affairs, November 2017, Volume I, Number 4.
“Gambling and Speculation: Perceptions and Reality,” Keynote Speech, Vienna, Austria, reprinted in M. Zollinger, Random Riches, 2016
“Accelerated learning would add trillions dollar in wealth,” Washington, American Enterprise Institute, 2013
“What if economists applied their theories to themselves,” Asia Times, 2015
“Why behavioral economics is neither behavioral nor economics,” 2015
“Sciences of Political Lies,” in Koppl, R., S. Horwitz, Advances in Austrian Economics, Emerald Press, 2006
"Extracting Sunbeams Out of Cucumbers: Or, what is bad social science and why is it practiced?", Queen's Quarterly, v. 99, 1991
“Making sense out of nonsense,” Chapter 1 in Educating Economists, AnnArbor: Michigan University Press, 1991.
"The road to freedom," Forbes, May 17 1999, cover article (about Hayek)
2013: In February 2013, he has been awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to his peers, his community, and to Canada.
1998: Forbes columnists (June 1998) choose two of Brenner's books, Rivalry and History - the Human Gamble as books that influenced them most.
1998: Forbes Global, 8 August 1998, features Brenner in cover story (review of his books and interview).
1997: Honorary Member of Golden Key National Honour Society.
1997: Award by the Organizing Committee of Les Jeux du Commerce 1997 (for outstanding contribution to coaching in oral debate).
1991-1993: Killam Fellowship Award.
1989: The book Rivalry was chosen to be among the Outstanding Academic Books published in the U.S. (Choice, June 1989).
1987: The book, Betting on Ideas was chosen to be among the Outstanding Academic Books published in the U.S. (Choice, May 1987).
1976: First prize in a competition organized by the Union of Banks in Israel (for the publication in the Bank of Israel Economic Review (with S. Bronfeld).
1976: Fulbright Fellowship Award.
1999: Fellow, Royal Society, Canada.
1990-1992: Grant from Loto-Quebec.
1982-1989: Research Grants from either Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the FCAR, Canada Council, Dobson Foundation.
1986-1987: Grants from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Business School, New York University.
1980-1981: Grant from the Memorial Foundation, New York, U.S.A.
1977: Fulbright Grant for post-doctoral studies.