First-rate financial history and an admirable effort to wrestle a world-changing series of events between covers.

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CRASHED

HOW A DECADE OF FINANCIAL CRISES CHANGED THE WORLD

What happens when the walls of Wall Street come crashing down? Donald Trump, for one thing. A long but not oppressive study blending politics, economics, and history.

Tooze (History/Columbia Univ.; The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931, 2014, etc.), whose previous book won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, examines the “first crisis of a global age” as it played out in an increasingly interlocked financial world. One driver was the deregulation of financial institutions, which was not confined to the United States. As the author notes, deregulation was central to the British plan to convert London into ground zero for “many of the most fast-paced global transactions” that were remaking the world. Tooze complicates the usual narratives. While many writers, especially on the right, have pegged the financial meltdown on the subprime mortgage crisis, agencies such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in fact kept loans to high standards, and that aspect of the larger financial crisis proved more symptom than cause. Still, those mortgages worked to distort the market, and “when you distort the market, crises are inevitable.” One unintended effect of the rattling of capital was the strengthening of Russia, whose “new prosperity was associated not with independence from the world economy but with entanglement in it,” and China, whose economy responded “in directions that the Beijing leadership had been struggling to counteract.” Some of the broader consequences were more profound, including a schism between globalists and protectionists in the U.S. and Europe—a schism that, by Tooze’s account, resulted a decade later in Brexit, the election of Trump (whose “objectionable personality and outlandish policy proposals now had to be weighed against the more basic political question of who could do what for whom”), and the rush to once again deregulate the very forces that had set off the crisis in the first place.

First-rate financial history and an admirable effort to wrestle a world-changing series of events between covers.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-670-02493-3

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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