More diagnosis than prescription, but the epidemiological view of swollen-wallet sickness makes for highly interesting...
The First World is fat but not happy, and its consumerist ways are spreading like an epidemic to the farthest reaches of the globe.
Poverty is a reality even in America, write Harvard School of Public Health researchers Kawachi and Kennedy. But, they maintain, “in an affluent society such as the United States, there are diminishingly few things that the poor cannot afford that would make a difference between life and death.” In other words, the economic challenge most Americans face today is not having the wherewithal to get things that they need, but instead having the means to get the things they want: a second television, perhaps, or a boat, or a house in the Hamptons. However, this unprecedented success comes at a cost in terms of social equity and the distribution of goods and services around the world: 200 years ago, the difference in per-capita income between the richest nation, the United Kingdom, and the poorest, China, was a mere $1,200 (in dollars adjusted to 1990), whereas today the difference between the richest nation, the US, and the poorest, Sierra Leone, is more than 25 times that. Inequality is also on the rise within the First World, with wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands: in the US, “the incomes of the bottom 60 percent of households have stagnated in real terms during the last twenty-five years, whereas the rich have continued to pull ahead.” This inequality, the authors suggest, is something of a disease and in all events has not made the rich any happier, for all their shiny toys; rather, the uneven distribution of wealth yields isolation in the form of gated communities, social angst in the fear of falling behind, and bigger and bigger waistlines as Americans of all social classes become more and more indolent.More diagnosis than prescription, but the epidemiological view of swollen-wallet sickness makes for highly interesting reading.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002
Page Count: 240
Publisher: The New Press
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002
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by Daniel Kahneman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2011
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
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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