A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply. Drink up.

READ REVIEW

THE BIG THIRST

THE SECRET LIFE AND TURBULENT FUTURE OF WATER

A wide-ranging look at that most precious of goods, water, and a world in which it is a subject of constant crisis.

Most of us in the First World don’t think about the source of our drinking water, for the simple reason that we have engineered our way around the problems of attainability that plagued our ancestors. Indeed, writes Fast Company journalist Fishman (The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World’s Most Powerful Company Really Works—and How It’s Transforming the American Economy, 2006), “our very success with water has allowed us to become water illiterate.” That is not so elsewhere in the world. By the author’s reckoning, four in ten people on the planet don’t have easy access to water, and many of them have to walk in order to obtain it—a fact that comes with a host of problems, usually borne by women and girls, who do most of the water hauling at the expense of more rewarding work or attending school. What’s worse, the numbers of water-poor people aren’t declining. Traveling to India, Fishman observes that just about every household has a well-developed water-storage system not just because so much of the subcontinent is arid, but also because municipal governments in even the largest cities—Mumbai, Delhi—do not reliably deliver water to residents, at least beyond a couple of hours per day. Americans, the author argues, have gotten good at doing more with less water. He quotes statistics indicating that our absolute usage has fallen by 10 percent since 1980, even as our population has grown by 70 million people; he does not allow that this has something to do with the offshoring of so much of our thirsty agriculture. Even so, he observes, Americans are still thirsty—and even now trying to figure out ways to engineer around looming crises such as the disappearance of Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

A timely warning about the dwindling global water supply. Drink up.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0207-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more