Well reported but with debatable theoretical underpinnings.

GOOD ITALY, BAD ITALY

WHY ITALY MUST CONQUER ITS DEMONS TO FACE THE FUTURE

The former editor-in-chief of the Economist finds a few bright spots amid the dark economic clouds in post-Berlusconi Italy.

Expanded and updated since its 2010 publication in Italian, this brisk journalistic account by Emmott (Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India, and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade, 2008, etc.) argues that Italy’s current financial crisis eerily echoes the previous one of 1992-1994, and that understanding why meaningful reforms failed to be enacted then may help Italians do better this time. He dismisses as unhelpful in this effort the traditional distinction between the wealthy, industrial north and the poor, rural south. Instead, Emmott discerns a “Bad Italy…selfish, closed, umeritocratic and often criminal,” and a “Good Italy…more open, community-minded and progressive.” As examples of the Good Italy, he offers social movements such as Addiopizzo (“goodbye bribes”) and Ammazzeteci Tutti (“kill us all”), an anti-mafia group. Emmott also visits and praises various nimble new businesses that have managed to thrive despite restrictive labor laws and a glacially slow judicial system that makes it extremely difficult to enforce contracts. The slow food movement in Turin, a cashmere exporter in Perugia and a company that manufactures sophisticated measurement devices are among the author’s examples of the kind of dynamic capitalism Italy needs. However, these praiseworthy efforts don’t immediately address the problem of Italy’s massive debt, which occurs in the context of a global economic crisis due in large part to the kind of unrestricted, unregulated capitalism the author seems to be advocating, despite a brief acknowledgement of the banking industry’s excesses. When Emmott praises Ireland’s governing institutions for becoming “from the late 1980s onward…more efficient and less profligate,” without making any reference to the fact that Ireland is now experiencing a financial crisis at least as severe as Italy’s, it’s difficult to entirely trust his prescriptions for economic health.

Well reported but with debatable theoretical underpinnings.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-18630-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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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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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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