Plucky, intellectual combat, but Shlaes neglects to counter the most telling arguments about GOP responsibility for the...

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THE FORGOTTEN MAN

A NEW HISTORY OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION

Shlaes (The Greedy Hand, 1999, etc.), a senior visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a columnist at Bloomberg, brings to the Great Depression a flair for revealing anecdotes and a debater’s moxie that slides into contrarianism.

According to the author, from the Great Crash of 1929 until 1940, government intervention made the Depression an unprecedented national calamity. While liberal historians unfavorably contrast Herbert Hoover with Franklin Roosevelt, Shlaes takes the former engineer to task for a similarity to his successor: an overestimation of the value of government planning. The result: the end of sizable gains, courtesy of tax-cutting policies, under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. All of this requires revisionism so massive that Shlaes' powers of persuasion become as hit-or-miss as the liberal programs she criticizes. She is at her best in detailing the decade-long disillusionment of a group of academics, journalists, trade-union leaders and liberal activists who sailed to the U.S.S.R. in 1927 to observe communism in action, including future FDR adviser Rexford Guy Tugwell, economist and future senator Paul Douglas and ACLU founder Roger Baldwin. Her profile of the Schechters—a pro-Roosevelt family of butchers who successfully overturned the National Industrial Recovery Act before the Supreme Court—demonstrates her point that the “forgotten man” was really the small businessman trying to survive without government aid. But Shlaes’ other examples suggest that it was the type—rather than the fact—of government intervention that was the real problem in the 1930s. The Smoot-Hawley tariff signed by Hoover, for instance, deprived businesses of foreign markets, but FDR’s Securities and Exchange Commission stabilized the economy. Equally problematic, Shlaes’ heroes come largely unblemished. While noting FDR’s politically motivated tax prosecution of Andrew Mellon, Treasury Secretary during the 1920s boom, she underplays Mellon’s culpability on conflict-of-interest charges.

Plucky, intellectual combat, but Shlaes neglects to counter the most telling arguments about GOP responsibility for the Depression.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-06-621170-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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

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