A highly effective way to talk about an issue that remains a nonstarter for so many nationwide.

OPEN BORDERS

THE SCIENCE AND ETHICS OF IMMIGRATION

An acclaimed economics professor and a celebrated comic creator team up to argue that a major component of global peace and prosperity is actually open borders.

In today’s acrid political climate, where even the fundamental humanity of immigrants is often denied, many readers may be surprised to learn that the U.S. effectively maintained open borders until the Immigration Act of 1924. Beginning there, Caplan (Economics/George Mason Univ.; The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, 2018, etc.) and Weinersmith (Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543: A Collection of Science-Themed Comics, 2014, etc.) offer a cogent and accessible analysis of U.S. immigration policy and how it should change. The author and illustrator build a framework for their position based on moral, economic, philosophical, and pragmatic considerations, all while anticipating naysayers in a fun, open, and respectful manner. One example is the “Skittles argument” against open borders, which asks, “if there were three poison pills in a bowl of Skittles, would you take a handful?” Caplan and Weinersmith gently invoke the spirit of probability theory pioneer Carl Friedrich Gauss to illustrate that this argument against immigration is actually the “height of innumeracy” because the bowl with three poison pills actually contains millions of delicious candies—and refusing to eat is as childish as refusing to leave your house because you might get struck by lightning. “Numeracy won’t mend your heart if an immigrant kills someone you love,” writes the author, “but numeracy will prevent you from using one injustice to rationalize another.” For the sake of argument, Caplan and Weinersmith even accept the validity of the top complaints about immigration, but they propose “keyhole solutions” that address those concerns “without blanket restrictions on immigration.” If that’s not enough to spark serious discussions about open borders, they also enlist the wisdom of J.S. Mill, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Richard Posner, Lee Kuan Yew, Immanual Kant, and even Jesus.

A highly effective way to talk about an issue that remains a nonstarter for so many nationwide.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31696-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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