A deft, fair analysis that clarifies the issues for both the general public and concerned policymakers.

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THE FRACKING DEBATE

THE RISKS, BENEFITS, AND UNCERTAINTIES OF THE SHALE REVOLUTION

An examination of the pros and cons and the unknowns of the shale revolution, bringing much-needed light to the hot topic of fracking.

Raimi (Energy Policy/Univ. of Michigan) is a research associate at Resources for the Future, an organization that focuses on natural resource and environmental issues. In his first book, the author aims to address the most important issues of the debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly called, and he draws on the expertise of state regulators, environmental lawyers, leaders in the gas and oil industry, working scientists, and academics. In addition, he traveled widely around the United States, talking to people who live near fracking sites. The result is a highly readable account with straightforward explanations of what is involved in extracting oil and gas from shale. Numerous simple black-and-white charts and tables back up the narrative, and each chapter concludes with a brief summary of the issues covered. These include the mechanics of fracking, its effects on the environment and the health of those living nearby or working at a drill site, the risk of earthquakes, the effect on the economy and on climate change, and the manner in which the industry is regulated. The take-home message is that the shale revolution is here to stay and that neither proponents nor opponents have all the right answers. As Raimi makes clear, there are no easy answers to some of the complex issues involved. The final chapter gives the book a personal touch, as the author reveals the feelings of people living close to fracking sites. From his conversations with them, he concludes that they may not like the noise, dirt, traffic, and changes to their landscapes, but the money and the jobs are generally welcomed.

A deft, fair analysis that clarifies the issues for both the general public and concerned policymakers.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-231-18486-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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

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