An impressively clear presentation that should prove useful to those looking for a one-stop primer.

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Yaruss presents an introduction to economics designed to help Americans understand—and participate in—current political debates.

The author contends that rationally informed political decisions on the part of the American citizenry is the only mechanism that will usher in substantive economic progress but that many find economics a prohibitively technical discipline and do not adequately comprehend the terms of debate. He also casts a gimlet eye at the media, which he sees as being “dominated by all sorts of very serious-looking people pontificating on the future of the economy and recommending policy based on their very self-assured predictions” and failing to alleviate this collective ignorance. Yaruss aims to “demystify our economy” by providing an “easily understandable overview” of it, one that serves not to supply facile answers but to help the reader to understand the basic questions. To this end, the author takes the reader on a scrupulously thorough tour of the subject, discussing the nature of money, the inner workings of the Federal Reserve, the national debt, and the structure of corporations, among many other topics. He limns a marvelously accessible discussion of some technically formidable subjects, such as derivative securities. Yaruss doesn’t shy away from registering his own opinions; the author argues that, partly as a result of the “technological revolution,” commercial competition has increasingly become a “winner-take-all” system—a trend that has resulted in grotesque inequality—a viewpoint that informs the entire work. Only very occasionally that perspective results in some strident rhetoric: “Income taxes can discourage work, sales taxes can discourage the purchase of goods, and property taxes can discourage the development of more and better housing. What might inheritance and estate taxes discourage? Dying?” Nevertheless, this is a valuable introduction to a difficult field that accomplishes its principal objective: to educate the public so it can more fully comprehend the economic arguments of the day.

An impressively clear presentation that should prove useful to those looking for a one-stop primer.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781633888364

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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