A cogent analysis of the concurrent Trump/Brexit phenomena and a dire warning about what lies ahead.

US VS. THEM

THE FAILURE OF GLOBALISM

An examination of the coming worldwide explosion of populism.

“Even as [globalism] makes the world better, it breeds economic and cultural insecurity, and when people act out of fear, bad things happen,” writes Bremmer (Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World, 2015, etc.), president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm. Already, popular discontent with ruling elites has fostered the protectionism of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Unfortunately, writes the author, that is just the beginning. In this lucid, provocative book, he argues that the battle between us and them (globalization’s “winners and losers”), driven by “fears of diluted identity” and “economic anxieties,” is set to grow in intensity, especially in the developing world, which often lacks sturdy institutions and social safety nets. Anxiety dictates that “the borders are open, and the foreigners are coming. They will steal your job. They will cost you your pension and your health care by bankrupting your system. They will pollute your traditional culture.” To protect themselves, angry citizens turn to politicians who build barriers (physical walls, tariffs, etc.) to stem the loss of jobs and seeming onslaught of strangers, criminals, and terrorists. The book’s most revealing chapter analyzes political trends in the dozen largest developing countries. With more than half of the world’s people (and an even higher percentage of its youth), they will determine the future of the global economy. All face increasing popular frustration: growing inequality in Egypt, corruption and economic decline in Russia, religious tensions in India, water and electricity shortages in Venezuela, and the urban–rural wealth divide in China. The needs of these and other countries—Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa—will further widen the gap between winners and losers, ultimately forcing a moment of global “reckoning.” Bremmer urges a rewriting of social contracts to help people thrive in dangerous times.

A cogent analysis of the concurrent Trump/Brexit phenomena and a dire warning about what lies ahead.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-53318-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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