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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more