Provocative reading: a bad-case, if not worst-case, scenario that portends tough times ahead. Let’s hope Dent is erring on...

THE DEMOGRAPHIC CLIFF

HOW TO SURVIVE AND PROSPER DURING THE GREAT DEFLATION OF 2014-2019

Talk about timing the market: Demographer Dent (The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History, 2009, etc.) studies generational trends that suggest hard times are in store, particularly for younger people entering the workforce.

Though the economy seems to be recovering, writes the author, this is a result of “endless government stimulus” that must come to an end. With the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the subsequent restrictions imposed on the economy by the fact that fewer workers will be replacing them, consumer spending will decline, since those workers will likely have less money to spend even as the boomers are in the “downward phase” in their own purchasing patterns. The “echo boomers,” whose births are spread out from 1976 to 2007, will eventually replace the baby boomers, and they’re significantly more numerous. Meanwhile, the Gen Xers—less than half the echo boomers’ number—are going to have to pull a lot of weight. The near-term result? A “coma economy” such as Japan’s. The good news, if it is in fact good news, is that China is not likely to overwhelm the West economically, since its demographic future is even more dire. The bad news for nativists is that in order to re-emerge economically, the United States will have to see a population growth to 420 million by 2060, and much of that will have to come from immigration, which is likely instead to slow in the coming “winter season.” Dent closes by examining the place of social entitlements in a newly austere economic landscape; refreshingly, he urges that “there should be “a government-driven one-payer system for the most basic health care services for all,” adding that the free market system is intended to benefit everyone, “not just the strongest.”

Provocative reading: a bad-case, if not worst-case, scenario that portends tough times ahead. Let’s hope Dent is erring on the side of pessimism.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59184-727-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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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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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