A confusing and strident fulmination.

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THE EXCLUSIVE PERCENT CULTURE

THE FASTEST WAY FOR A NATION TO HIT ROCK BOTTOM

A diagnosis of America’s decline and an examination of its toxic relationship with the developing world.

Husseiny (co-author: Knowledge-Based Economy, 2017, etc.) argues that the United States is locked in a downward spiral, in part because of its dysfunctional dealings with poorer nations. Out of a sense of admiration, he says, developing countries try to emulate the United States, even if it means acquiescing to its assertions of imperial power; as a result, the American government is permitted to use these nations as socio-economic and cultural petri dishes. For example, the author contends, the United States circumvented the restrictions of its own Food and Drug Administration by testing experimental birth control pills on millions of Egyptian women. Likewise, he asserts, they explored the viability of HIV and hepatitis C medications on unwitting Africans. In these cases, Americans received a double benefit, he says: the profit from the drugs’ sales and an unregulated scientific trial. Furthermore, he says, while the United States was once heralded as the leading manufacturer in the world, they now largely import lesser goods from economically unsophisticated countries. The author goes on to pursue his hypothesis in a variety of ways, touching on what he characterizes as the evils of taxation, the corruption of the World Trade Organization, and the monopolistic practices of American supermarket chains. Husseiny candidly discusses an important issue: the extent to which arrangements made between rich and poor nations benefit either party. However, the book is maddeningly peripatetic, wandering shiftlessly from one disparate issue to another, more prolix than focused. There’s virtually no evidence offered for the author’s assertions, and the prose is unwieldy and often bewildering: “The crux of the matter is that the demise of the present civilization and the decline of the nowadays powers will go on vast rampant downward swing by their continuous revamping of made-to-order rearward movements that excelled in destroying the already benighted countries.” Finally, readers may find some of the content offensive, such as a reference to “a big fat lady from the IRS.”

A confusing and strident fulmination.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5480-5103-7

Page Count: 383

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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