Reuven Brenner

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Reuven Brenner (born 1947) is a Romanian-born Israeli-Canadian economics professor, holding the REPAP Chair of Economics at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management.


Over the last thirty years he has consulted for companies including Bank of America, Knowledge Universe, Bell Canada. The son of concentration camp survivors, he was born in 1947 in Romania, and immigrated to Israel where he served in the Israeli Army during both the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War.

At the core of his economic model is the view that the metaphysical trumps the physical, with human capital the source of true wealth creation around the world. Physical wealth, as in wealth that comes from the ground is not portable, which means it can easily be taxed, or worse, expropriated. His most recent book, A World of Chance[1] argues that at one time gambling fulfilled roles performed by venture capital and banking do today, and that modern financial institutions retain a strong gambling core. The book shows how people dealt with uncertainty and risk since Antiquity, how they rationalized a variety of beliefs and institutions that made it appear that decisions had some solid backing; how people in fact made decisions on a variety of issues linked to finance, gambling, insurance, religion and politics, and, last but not least, he offers his own view of human nature, linking risk taking to trial and error, and venturing into the uncertain. His views have not much in common with either economists' orthodox views of 'risk aversion, or the so-called behavioral approach. Brenner confronts with view with a wide range of facts and events - and no laboratory experiments. As he puts it, people can neither make nor lose millions in laboratories

In his 2002 book, Force of Finance,[2] Brenner notes that economic success in certain countries often results from "political blunders of other nations," that lead "to the rapid outflow of both capital and talented people." Brenner cites Hong Kong as one beneficiary of a talented human inflow, a city with notably nothing in the way of natural wealth to redistribute. To prosper there, "one must use one's brains for a living", and as "brains are mobile, you can't tax them too much." This was also the reason Amsterdam, Singapore, Israel and Florida prospered and why post World War II Germany was able to rebuild.On the capital side of the ledger, Brenner writes that these countries have prospered because they have kept their capital markets open, something they did in part because they happened not to have natural resources on which they could collect rents. The book also discusses the various monetary policy options, pointing out the flaws in inflation rate targeting and floating exchange rates, and suggests that economists have misunderstood the proper role of gold, and reaches the conclusion that it should be serve as an alarm signal. Brenner also integrates his views about democratization of capital markets and entrepreneurship with issues such as nationalism and tolerance, as well as with details about political institutions that can best maintain accountability, illustrating the latter with Swiss' unique "direct democracy."

In addition to Force of Finance, Reuven Brenner is the author of seven other books. Labyrinths of Prosperity[3] helps to explain among other things why the Dutch are seen as frugal, why education spending rose in the United States after 1958, and why Russians refrained from buying apartments there after the U.S.S.R.'s collapse. For the macro-focused, he points out that statistics such as GDP sustain "the illusion that prosperity is necessarily linked with territory, national units, and government spending in general." For those skeptical about government measures of inflation, his discussion of the inherent flaws of CPI is particularly eye-opening. It's about why the Keynesian get it completely wrong, that the paradox of savings is not at all what they capture in their models, and, since none ever discusses that in the last Chapter of the General Theory, where Keynes says that his views are in fact those of Bernard de Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (quoting from it extensively, and which has little to do with what now passes for his framework), it is not clear if they even really read the book.

In Gambling and Speculation[4] Brenner makes a cogent argument for gambling legalization. He uses history and theory to cover all measures of risk taking, noting that risk-taking that is a daily part our lives.

In Educating Economists,[5] Brenner and co-author David Colander discuss ways to improve the training of future economists. In the chapter Making Sense out of Nonsense, Brenner discusses what's wrong with the social sciences and academia today, and in two other chapters focusing on the main courses being taught in economics either being empty of content, or wrong.Rivalry: In Business, Science, Among Nations[6] posits a theory of business enterprise that suggests risks are taken as a way to be outranked by one's peers in the hierarchical sense. The book also deals with antitrust, state owned enterprises, and advertising, showing how the latter saves significant search costs, and how recommendations of family and friends (the non-digital ones of the 1980s) were a good substitute for advertising.

His first two books, History - the Human Gamble [7] and Betting on Ideas [8] present his views on "history," by looking at facts and sequence of events that other historians and social scientists have not, and integrates Brenner's views of human nature, of experimenting with innovations in business, science, politics, with demographic changes. All combined in an entirely jargon-free text, lead to Brenner's view - and the title of his concluding chapter in the first book - that "Happy People Do Not Have a History."

In addition to his books, Brenner's articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, National Post (Canada), Financial Times, The Straits Times (Singapore), Asia Times, Dow Jones and Le Figaro (Paris). He also has a column at Forbes.



  • Brenner, R., Brenner, G.A., and Brown, A., A World of Chance, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • The Force of Finance, New York, Texere Publishing, April 2002, 224 pages (US version of The Financial Century, 2001).
  • The Financial Century: From Turmoils to Triumphs, Stoddart Publishers, March 2001, 224 pages
  • Labyrinths of Prosperity: Economic Follies, Democratic Remedies, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1994.
  • In Pursuit of Canadian Prosperity, Montreal: McGill Faculty of Management, 1994
  • Brenner, R. et Brenner, G.,Spéculation et jeux de hasard – Une histoire de l’homme par le jeu, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1993.
  • Brenner, R. and Brenner, G., Gambling and Speculation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. vii-286, published in French in Paris by Presses Universitaires de France, 1993.
  • Educating Economists, Brenner, R. and Colander, D. (eds.), Ann Arbor, Michigan University Press, March 1992, pp. 1–294.
  • History - The Human Gamble, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1983, Spanish Edition under the title La Historia, Albur del Hombre, published by Fondo de Cultura Economica, Mexico - Spain, Fall 1989
  • Rivalry, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. vii-244, (paperback edition of book first published in 1985).
  • Betting on Ideas, Chicago, Chicago University Press, (paperback edition of book first published in 1985), 1989, pp. ix-247.


  • "The Keynes Conundrum," (with David Goldman), First Things, October 2010.
  • "Our Muddled Masses ," First Things, December 2009.
  • " The Needle’s Eye: Why America’s Economic Recovery Needs the Global South ," (with David Goldman), First Things, November 2009.
  • "Why society needs "irrational exuberance" - and what this implies about valuations and monetary policy," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Volume 15, Number 2, Summer 2000, pp. 112-117.
  • "Depressing Krugnorance: Review of Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics", International Economy, July/August 1999.The version linked reprinted in National Post (Canada); Straits Times (Singapore). The article is integrated in Brenner's Force of Finance (2002).
  • "Asian Currency Crisis," Lead Article, Jobs and Capital, Spring 1998, 1-9
  • "An Overlooked Explanation of the Declining Saving Rate", Empirical Economics, (with M. Dagenais and C. Montmarquette) v. 19, (1994), pp. 629–34.
  • "Dealing With Creativity, but Avoiding Disciplinary Metaphors: A response to tubenson and runco", New Ideas in Psychology, v. 10, no. 2 (1992), pp. 149–55.
  • "Entrepreneurship in the New Commonwealth", Executive Forum, Journal of Business Venturing, v. 7, no. 2 (1992), pp. 431–40.
  • "Extracting Sunbeams Out of Cucumbers: Or, what is bad social science and why is it practiced?", Queen's Quarterly, v. 99 (Fall 1991), pp. 519–53.
  • "From Envy and Distrust to Trust and Ambition", Rivista Economica, v. LXXXI, serie 3 (June 1991), pp. 31–59. (in English and Italian).
  • "Why is Opera More Exciting in Post-Communist Societies?", Queen's Quarterly, v. 99 (Winter 1991), pp. 1011–1016.
  • (and Brenner, G.) "Gambling: Shaping an opinion", Journal of Gambling Studies, v. 6, no. 4 (1990), pp. 297–311.
  • "Pays de L'est: d'abord les réformes légales, ensuite les politiques monétaires et macroéconomiques", Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines: Bilingual Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, v. 1, no. 3 (1990), pp. 253–77.
  • "The Long Road From Serfdom and How to Shorten It", Canadian Business Law Journal, v. 17, no. 2 (1990), pp. 195–226.
  • (and Brenner, G.) "Les Innovations et La Loi Sur la Concurrence", Actualité Economique, v. 65, no.1 (1989), pp. 146–63.
  • (G. Brenner), "Intrepreneurship - Le nouveau nom d'un vieux phénomène", Revue internationale de gestion, September 1988.

Published interviews[edit]


  1. ^ Reuven Brenner, Gabrielle A. Brenner and Aaron Brown, A World of Chance: Betting on Religion, Games, Wall Street. Cambridge University Press (2008). ISBN 978-0-521-71157-9
  2. ^ Reuven Brenner, Force of Finance: Triumph of the Capital Markets. Texere (2002). ISBN 978-1-58799-130-1
  3. ^ Reuven Brenner, Labyrinths of Prosperity: Economic Follies, Democratic Remedies. University of Michigan Press (1994). ISBN 978-0-472-06556-1
  4. ^ Reuven Brenner and Gabrielle A. Brenner, Gambling and Speculation: A Theory, a History, and a Future of some Human Decisions. Cambridge University Press (1990). ISBN 978-0-521-38180-2
  5. ^ David Colander and Reuven Brenner, Educating Economists. University of Michigan Press (1992). ISBN 978-0-472-06486-1
  6. ^ Reuven Brenner, Rivalry: In Business, Science, Among Nations. Cambridge University Press (1990). ISBN 978-0-521-38584-8
  7. ^ Reuven Brenner, History - The Human Gamble. University of Chicago Press (1983). ISBN 978-0-226-07402-3
  8. ^ Reuven Brenner, Betting on Ideas: Wars, Invention, Inflation. University of Chicago Press (1985). ISBN 978-0-226-07401-6

External links[edit]