It’s a sign of the times that this sensible plea for moderation can seem so radical.

THE CENTRIST MANIFESTO

A pragmatic argument about moving politics away from polarities and toward the moderate middle, where the author feels most voters find themselves and most solutions can be negotiated.

The word “manifesto” typically generates more passion, but it’s hard to rouse excitement when espousing a shift toward the center. Yet it’s central to the argument by Wheelan (Public Policy/Dartmouth Coll.; Naked Statistics, 2013, etc.) that rabble-rousing emotionalism is part of the problem in American politics, where candidates in both parties feel that they must throw red meat to the extremists who are more involved in the nominating process than they are reflective of the citizenry at large. Contrary to analyses that see the country as increasingly polarized, the author suggests that most Americans are far more moderate and that they can find agreement on plenty of issues where two-party politics continues to find stalemate or gridlock. “The challenges we have to deal with as a nation are entirely manageable,” he writes. “The key is to mobilize America’s inner pragmatism.” The strategy focuses on the Senate, where a handful of centrist legislators from swing states or a tradition of electing representatives from both parties could become power brokers, essential to the sort of compromise that reflects most Americans. Though third-party candidates haven’t typically fared well, Wheelan argues that the difference here is that the centrists will come from the common-sense middle rather than the radical fringes. Leftists will have trouble swallowing his antipathy toward unions, while conservatives will find his positions on the environment and gay marriage suspect. But as he works his way through flash-point issues to consensus on abortion and guns, he strives for a rationality that all but ideologues can embrace.

It’s a sign of the times that this sensible plea for moderation can seem so radical.

Pub Date: April 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-34687-9

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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