Right on the money.

READ REVIEW

THE MONEY MEN

CAPITALISM, DEMOCRACY, AND THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR OVER THE AMERICAN DOLLAR

A lively and accessible history of a once-dominant issue in American life.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which governs US monetary policy, was a compromise solution to a long and fierce brawl between capitalists and democrats over money—what it is, who should control it and how it shapes the economy. And what a brawl it was. Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; Andrew Jackson, 2005, etc.) recounts the machinations of figures from Alexander Hamilton and Nicholas Biddle to William Jennings Bryan and J.P. Morgan as they engaged in a wildly careening struggle marked by much oratory, some bribery and motives ranging from noble to nefarious. Beginning with Hamilton’s arguments for a national bank, Brands shows how the two camps developed. The capitalists argued for the stability and unity conferred by a centralized, well-managed money supply, while the democrats feared a strong central government as a threat to democracy. Tracing the shifting debate as the nation grew into an industrial power, Brands brings these men to life. We see one-third of the members of Congress profiting as charter shareholders of Hamilton’s first Bank of the United States; Philadelphia mobs rioting against the second Bank of the United States, with Biddle, its director, barricading himself at home; and Jay Gould and James Fisk fleeing the financial district for their lives (to an opera house) after cornering the gold market and precipitating Black Friday, in 1869. Hounded but also feted—100,000 people watched Fisk’s New York City funeral procession in 1872, while a brass band played—the 19th-century financiers played key roles in the rise of the rail and steel industries, battled Theodore Roosevelt and other progressives and saw their heyday pass (even as J.P. Morgan died) in 1913, when President Wilson convinced Congress to create 12 privately capitalized Federal Reserve Banks with government oversight.

Right on the money.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-393-06184-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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