Sober without being dour and with a perhaps surprisingly optimistic conclusion. For policy wonks and readers with a grasp of...

THE MAP AND THE TERRITORY

RISK, HUMAN NATURE, AND THE FUTURE OF FORECASTING

Former Federal Reserve Board chairman Greenspan (The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, 2007, etc.) lightens up on free market orthodoxies to ponder the fact that people do not always behave, economically, as we wish them to—and neither do markets.

The author has long espoused a kind of laissez faire–ism that assumes that markets are self-adjusting and guided by the enlightened self-interest of individuals. Even so, Greenspan warned darkly of “over-exuberance” in the market, a polite way of hinting that a bubble was about to burst. The author opens with the admission that, yes, some people behave with less than “rational long-term self-interest” when everyone else is clamoring for the wonders of high-tech and the South Seas. A touch late in the game, he also asserts that, since we know of our irrationality as players in the economic game, we should be able to build this flaw into our economic forecasting models and predict future crashes. Though much of the book is a rather technical discussion—it is the dismal science after all—of things such as risk aversion and time preference, Greenspan scores some important points along the way. We need, he suggests, regulation in the marketplace—just not the kind of regulation we’ve been getting. Further, many of our problems, though of an economic nature, are political and not strictly matters of the exchequer, meaning that political solutions are required if, due to the current political mood in Washington, not likely to be soon forthcoming. On a level both micro and macro, the author also notes that “[o]ne of the most fundamental propositions of economics is that advances in standards of living require savings,” a bit of wisdom that we’ve all been neglecting.

Sober without being dour and with a perhaps surprisingly optimistic conclusion. For policy wonks and readers with a grasp of basic economics, a refreshing re-examination of doctrine, reality and effect.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59420-481-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more