A clear-eyed, if not very provocative, vision of disorderly times ahead.

EVERY NATION FOR ITSELF

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN A G-ZERO WORLD

"[T]he world needs leadership,” writes Bremmer (The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?, 2010, etc.). “We're not going to get it."

Not for a while, anyway. Welcome to the G-Zero (in contrast to, say, the G-20), a period of "tumultuous transition" in which "many countries are now strong enough to prevent the international community from taking action, but none has the political and economic muscle to remake the status quo.” The author describes in cogent detail the various reasons why no one—not the United States, not China, not the European Union or institutions like the World Bank—is presently in a position to provide or impose global leadership. As a result we have entered an unstable time when nation-states will pursue their own interests relatively unrestrained by other nations or alliances. Economic strength, not military strength, will determine the new international balance of power. Some nations—e.g., "pivot states" like Brazil—will thrive by building "profitable relationships with multiple countries without becoming overly reliant on any one of them." States in the shadow of a powerful neighbor, like Mexico, or friendless rogue states will likely wither. The ongoing effects of China's economic expansion and America's response to it will be key factors in determining the world order that will emerge from the G-Zero. Bremmer believes the United States can still regain a position of global dominance, but only if we get our public debt under control. His argument is weakened when he drifts into areas in which there have never been genuinely effective efforts at international cooperation (e.g., climate change, distribution of food and water), but even these topics demonstrate the extent of the developing international anarchy.

A clear-eyed, if not very provocative, vision of disorderly times ahead.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-468-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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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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