A brief but astute primer on the nation’s economic vulnerabilities.

THE SEINFELD ELECTION

ECONOMIC CHALLENGES THE CANDIDATES IGNORED THAT MUST BE FACED NOW

An analysis of the grim economic challenges that may confront the United States in the near future.

The last election season was certainly marked by fervent ideological divides, but that doesn’t mean that it was substantively serious. Paepke (The Evolution of Progress, 1993) calls it the “Seinfeld Election” because, like that TV sitcom, it was essentially about nothing. This is especially worrisome, he says, as the nation faces a maelstrom of daunting problems on the horizon. First, he asserts that the deficit will continue to balloon as spending consistently outstrips economic growth—the result of recklessness by both political parties. The interest rates on the nation’s debt alone will have crippling effects, he says, and future presidents will have a limited toolbox of fiscal strategies available when new crises arise. Also, he paints the country’s demographic reality as both frightening and inexorable; an aging population, he says, will be less economically productive but more solicitous of government funds—a problem compounded by senior voters’ increasing political clout. Entitlement spending poses grave risks, Paepke notes, as it’s considerably easier to take on new fiscal commitments than it is to shed them. Finally, he says that lasting economic progress depends upon technological innovation, which our nation no longer adequately supports: “Any prospect of restoring past levels of growth would require…making essential investments in infrastructure, improving incentives, eliminating crony capitalism, and government belt-tightening. Even then, any return to technology-charged rates of growth may not be sustainable for long.” Overall, Paepke’s analysis is chilling but sober, as he avoids any partisan score-settling or melodramatic announcements of imminent collapse. He addresses a number of issues, as well as suggested reforms, that faithful readers of decent newspapers will already be familiar with, but he’s right to point out that they were indeed neglected during the election season. His work is relatively brief—really more of a long essay than a full-fledged book—but it serves as a helpful introduction to economic hurdles that the United States government may find hard to clear in the years ahead.

A brief but astute primer on the nation’s economic vulnerabilities. 

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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