Unlikely to sway those for whom the idea of economic inequality is anathema, but a set of arguments worth considering.

THE UPSIDE OF INEQUALITY

HOW GOOD INTENTIONS UNDERMINE THE MIDDLE CLASS

Tax the rich? Even out the playing field? Bad idea, writes a famously contrarian financier.

It stands to reason that someone affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute would be inclined to mount a stout defense of the 1 percent, and Conard (Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, 2012) does not disappoint. Add to this his one-time role at Bain Capital, which he co-founded with Mitt Romney, and the package would seem to be complete. However, the author’s argument, calmly presented, has merits: it is true that, in general, the rich pay more taxes than they consume in government services and that a diverse knowledge economy offers more opportunities for wealth than a low-skilled one—and almost by definition produces inequalities. From these premises, Conard’s policy recommendations do not necessarily follow, and some of them are politically toxic, such as the thought that giving the middle class a tax break is ill-advised. “Successful risk-taking that produces innovation and gradually builds institutional capabilities accelerates growth,” he writes. “A middle-class tax cut will have no such effect.” Some of the author’s suggestions, if impractical, are intriguing—e.g., why not have the rich shoulder the burden of defense spending, since they’re the ones who have the most to defend? The weakest sections of the book are the most formulaic, such as the tired mantra that students should not be rewarded for studying English but should instead be induced to study something “useful,” never mind that many iconic business leaders (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates) have studies in philosophy and the humanities in their quivers. Conard also comes up short on specifics for the education reform that he argues is needed to produce a robust economy, noting weakly instead that “we should be running a multitude of experiments to find solutions that work.”

Unlikely to sway those for whom the idea of economic inequality is anathema, but a set of arguments worth considering.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59523-123-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more