Anyone who wonders why government officials still take the Laffer curve seriously need go no further than this lucid book.




New York Times editorial page writer Appelbaum recounts the hijacking of economic and public policy by right-wing adherents of the unfettered market.

The hour of which the author writes is going on five decades now. The influence of economists on government has grown exponentially since the Nixon administration, with economists convincing the president to scrap the military draft and the judiciary to shelve antitrust cases, their numbers in the federal employ tripling from the 1950s to the 1970s. Economists have taken larger roles in formulating every aspect of public policy—and, in time, leaving their disciplinary bounds to issue pronouncements on matters societal and moral. Economists tend to be conservative, and truly conservative economists would in time, for example, come to blame inflation for the decline of the Protestant work ethic and a rise in corruption, fraud, and “a generalized erosion in public and private manners.” At the same time, government was generally taking Milton Friedman’s laissez-faire, free-market approach to problems rather than the Keynesian quantitative easement of old. As Appelbaum notes, one reason China has been successful compared to the austerity economies of the West is that Keynes has not been forgotten there. Writing in accessible language of thorny fiscal matters, the author ventures into oddly fascinating corners of recent economic history. For instance, a modern trope holds that actor Jayne Mansfield’s beheading in an automobile accident prompted changes in truck design (yet mass shootings have produced no comparable gun control legislation), but that turns out to be wrong: The actuarial minds of the late Nixon era put the value of a human (American, anyway) life at $200,000, did the math, and concluded that the proposed addition of safety bars “would need to save four times as many lives to justify the cost.” The larger point is that the government’s blind trust in the market is now the status quo, and “reliance on the market grants priority to people who have money.”

Anyone who wonders why government officials still take the Laffer curve seriously need go no further than this lucid book.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-51232-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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