Overly broad declamation and triumphalism crowd out scrupulous analysis.

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THE BYZANTINE PINEAPPLE (PART 1) WITH CORPORATION X

Poje furnishes a sweeping critique of the current American systems of law, economics, and governance, and proposes an alternative. 

According to Poje (Painless, 2008) the American “socioeconomic legal political system,” or SELP, is so thoroughly plagued by “inherent flaws” that it can’t be remedied by a series of targeted tweaks—it must be entirely replaced. At the heart of the problem is a gratuitously impenetrable complexity: The legal system is so “arcane” that no citizen understands it, and each citizen is necessarily involved in some illegal activity. Likewise, the tax system is similarly labyrinthine and seems chiefly designed to pit citizens against one another in a contest for resources. Finally, a burgeoning matrix of social welfare programs is doomed to fail to treat citizens equally, again inevitably stoking the flames of class conflict. Instead of a well-functioning society, Americans are subjected to a “Byzantine pineapple,” which the author attempts to explain this way: “Those who get the tax money are those inside the pineapple of government dole, while those outside the Byzantine pineapple get deterred by the outer defense mechanisms of the pineapple.” It’s never entirely clear what precisely he means by this demarcation—the principal point seems to be that such a system necessarily involves favoritism. The author proposes that the current tax system be replaced by a flat tax—he includes a macroeconomic formula to determine its specific nature—and an equal monthly stipend for all citizens. He recommends the termination of need-based government programs, though the government would pay all medical bills. Poje anticipates that a streamlined SELP, including a government hamstrung by tight spending limits, will produce ample tax revenue to cover the new costs. The author also outlines the establishment of a corporation to steward these changes, which includes the marketing plan for a movie that further educates Americans about the SELP he advocates. Poje’s critique is sensible if familiar—it’s hard to argue that the current tax regime isn’t monstrously bloated. However, his study offers hyper-general declaration in the absence of detailed analysis—a more rigorous empirical appraisal would have been more helpful than a chapter on the way his “lifetime of accomplishment” justifies his expertise. Also, while he admits he has no background in film, he seems quixotically convinced his will be a big hit and “it will succeed where Ben-Hur failed.”

Overly broad declamation and triumphalism crowd out scrupulous analysis. 

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984555-12-0

Page Count: 191

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2019

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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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Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to...

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CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A French academic serves up a long, rigorous critique, dense with historical data, of American-style predatory capitalism—and offers remedies that Karl Marx might applaud.

Economist Piketty considers capital, in the monetary sense, from the vantage of what he considers the capital of the world, namely Paris; at times, his discussions of how capital works, and especially public capital, befit Locke-ian France and not Hobbesian America, a source of some controversy in the wide discussion surrounding his book. At heart, though, his argument turns on well-founded economic principles, notably r > g, meaning that the “rate of return on capital significantly exceeds the growth rate of the economy,” in Piketty’s gloss. It logically follows that when such conditions prevail, then wealth will accumulate in a few hands faster than it can be broadly distributed. By the author’s reckoning, the United States is one of the leading nations in the “high inequality” camp, though it was not always so. In the colonial era, Piketty likens the inequality quotient in New England to be about that of Scandinavia today, with few abject poor and few mega-rich. The difference is that the rich now—who are mostly the “supermanagers” of business rather than the “superstars” of sports and entertainment—have surrounded themselves with political shields that keep them safe from the specter of paying more in taxes and adding to the fund of public wealth. The author’s data is unassailable. His policy recommendations are considerably more controversial, including his call for a global tax on wealth. From start to finish, the discussion is written in plainspoken prose that, though punctuated by formulas, also draws on a wide range of cultural references.

Essential reading for citizens of the here and now. Other economists should marvel at how that plain language can be put to work explaining the most complex of ideas, foremost among them the fact that economic inequality is at an all-time high—and is only bound to grow worse.

Pub Date: March 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-674-43000-6

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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