A welcome cross-examination of a concept that seems as natural as sunlight but that, like every other human construct, is...

THE GREAT INVENTION

THE STORY OF GDP AND THE MAKING (AND UNMAKING) OF THE MODERN WORLD

We all know that statistics can lie. But what about one of the greatest statistical measures of all, Gross Domestic Product?

British science writer and BBC presenter Masood (International Science Policy/Imperial Coll. London; Science and Islam: A History, 2008, etc.) offers a provocation from start to finish, one that, though accessible to lay readers, will be most meaningful to those concerned with economic policy and development. GDP, he argues, is by the nature of its definition tilted to advanced economies, and it layers in hedges such as “effective demand” to condition tried-and-true formulas of the past. In the postwar era, he writes, the predecessor of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development pushed the use of the Depression-era GDP measure “as a system of accounting to assure richer nations that the assistance they were providing under the Marshall Plan wasn’t being misspent and was contributing to the growth of economies.” The problem, as development economists such as Mahbub ul Haq have argued, is that GDP doesn’t account for aspects of the unofficial economy that are so important in developing countries, such as barter and job sharing. Neither does it account for externalities such as the value of available clean water, bringing the concept of GDP under criticism from environmental activists as well as economists. Masood examines the history and evolution of GDP, which seems to have the overall effect of making rich nations seem richer and poor nations poorer than they actually are and which therefore makes rich nations resistant to modifying or dropping it as a standard. The author further considers alternate methods of gauging economic activity, such as ul Haq’s Human Development Index and the so-called Gross National Happiness standard, which are useful in quantifying “job satisfaction, volunteering, friendships, or other kinds of life satisfaction that do not involve money.”

A welcome cross-examination of a concept that seems as natural as sunlight but that, like every other human construct, is shot through with both politics and flaws.

Pub Date: June 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68177-137-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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