This book’s personal experiences provide depth but some of the broader, economic generalizations remain unconvincing.

GET THE HECK OUT OF OUR WAY!

EXAMPLES OF GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS THAT ARE ERODING OUR FREEDOMS, HOLDING BACK THE ECONOMY, AND COSTING US MONEY AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

A treatise argues for a small federal government and fewer regulations.

Debut author Cox contends that running a business in America is far more complicated than it needs to be: “If the government would get out of our way, there is no limit to where we as a people could take our country and ourselves.” How exactly does the government interfere? The author maintains that the federal government in particular is too large, too full of redundancies, and too imposing to allow regular Americans to live their lives (and operate their businesses) as they see fit. The government creates complex regulations (for example, the “Clean Air Act”), passes laws that are thousands of pages long, and seeks to redistribute wealth from people who have earned it to those who have no qualms about taking it. In the author’s opinion, there should be “no departments, bureaus, or commissions that are not absolutely necessary for protecting our freedoms” (although he supports “smart but generous” defense spending). He has a simple message for those in office: “Don’t try to give me what you think I deserve.” To illustrate his views, the book is full of personal experiences that range from installing a water heater without a plumbing license in Massachusetts to encountering problems trying to subdivide land in North Carolina. And while a screed attacking big government is nothing new (and the author notes influences that include Bill O’Reilly and the Heritage Foundation), the book is at its best when describing vivid personal experiences. Pages devoted to the difficulties of owning a mobile home park paint a very specific picture of how trying it can be to deal with the government. When a resident in the park sparks a court battle over a companion animal, it is apparent how the legal system can seem alarmingly whimsical. But some of the author’s more extreme views, such as his attack on the minimum wage, do not gain a lot of traction. Cox presents a good case that laws should be easier to understand and the government should be more transparent. But ideas about abolishing some child labor laws and removing FDA regulations are quixotic at best. 

This book’s personal experiences provide depth but some of the broader, economic generalizations remain unconvincing.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-5347-8

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2018

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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