While he was president of the Harvard Business School, Joseph E. Noland transformed his career from energy industry economist to global policy wonk.

Today, in “Rationality,” he argues that the answer to a great deal of potential global inequity lies in intelligently hedging against all the uncertainties facing today’s illusory future — manipulating current expectations and expected output for maximal efficacy in smoothing out contradictions.

The whole business of sustained profit and loss, he argues, is an anachronism. Far more fruitful is relying upon incentives and incentives and incentives, with merit and achievement, that create awareness of the unsteady balance between well-being and disutility. The balance is not always, or even frequently, achieved, but some equilibrium, some trade-off, must result from the shifting, for better or worse, of business incentives. Efficient trade-offs, both within a corporation and at the level of the states, reveal the way through which executives gain a proper understanding of how to align their goals to bear the most effectively defensible risks.