A vivid, highly informed portrayal of the personalities, politics and policies dominating “the most important international...

THE BATTLE OF BRETTON WOODS

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES, HARRY DEXTER WHITE, AND THE MAKING OF A NEW WORLD ORDER

The director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations revisits the 1944 conference that created “the new global monetary architecture” for the postwar world.

As the American Army entered Rome and the Russians drove the Nazis out of Minsk, delegates from 44 Allied nations gathered in Bretton Woods, N.H., to hammer out the ground rules for international economic equilibrium following the defeat of the Axis powers. The American delegation, led by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and his right-hand man for international affairs, Harry Dexter White, pressed for a “New Deal for a new world,” looking to strengthen government control of monetary policy and central banking and to install the dollar as the “world’s sole surrogate for gold.” The war-shattered British, mindful of their historic prerogatives, opposed the White plan, but their only leverage lay in the intellectual brilliance of John Maynard Keynes, the 20th century’s most influential economist, and the possibility that they might simply walk away and, thereby, cripple any agreement. Steil (co-author, Money, Markets, and Sovereignty, 2009, etc.) sets the stage for this contest between the cuttingly eloquent Keynes and the acerbic, technocratic White—neither man tailored for diplomacy—with especially deft potted biographies of each and a look at the infighting between the U.S. State and Treasury departments in the lead-up to the conference. For general readers, the author masterfully translates the arcana of competing theories of monetary policy, and a final chapter explains how, while some of the institutions created by Bretton Woods endure—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund—many of the conference’s assumptions were swiftly overtaken by the Marshall Plan. Throughout Steil’s sharp discussion runs the intriguing subplot of White’s career-long, secret relationship with Soviet intelligence.

A vivid, highly informed portrayal of the personalities, politics and policies dominating “the most important international gathering since the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.”

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-691-14909-7

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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?

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more