Packed with charts and graphs and not for the numerically faint of heart. For those versed in economics, however, Milanovic...

GLOBAL INEQUALITY

A NEW APPROACH FOR THE AGE OF GLOBALIZATION

The rich get richer, and the world gets poorer.

Inequality is a constant of history. But, writes economist Milanovic (Luxembourg Income Study Center; The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality, 2010, etc.), only recently have we been able to work with meaningful numbers about it. His terminus is 1988, “a convenient starting place because it coincides almost exactly with the fall of the Berlin Wall and reintegration of the then-communist economies into the world economic system.” Armed with strong data, the author charts how inequality of income and wealth, among other axes, though a global phenomenon, also has local results: in the face of globalization, workers in China may want to unionize, for instance, while workers in the United States might demand protective tariffs. Building on but not entirely endorsing the work of Thomas Piketty, Milanovic looks closely at some specific consequences of this push and pull across the globe: unskilled workers may be drawn to the U.S. because of the tightening of possibilities of intergenerational mobility, while more skilled ones might instead opt for the Northern European nations, where that opportunity is greater. If that premise is guaranteed to irritate America-firsters, so are some of Milanovic’s other findings, presented with the arid calmness of his profession. As inequality rises, the middle class disappears; as it does, political power concentrates in the hands of the rich, who may opt to send their children to private schools and refuse to fund public ones, with the “countervailing power of the middle class…no longer sufficiently strong to oblige them to finance public health and education and participate in it.” Milanovic is cautious about forecasting either economic or political consequences, noting in passing how wrong analysts were in the 1970s and ’80s about the world of today and observing, “predicting important discrete events may be a form of charlatanism.”

Packed with charts and graphs and not for the numerically faint of heart. For those versed in economics, however, Milanovic provides an illuminating analysis.

Pub Date: April 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-73713-6

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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