Solid reading for students of economic development and global economics.




A report from the front lines of inequality and corruption in India, one of the world’s rising economies.

It’s not the Taj Mahal, but it’s got two-thirds of the floor space of Versailles—and on a footprint of just an acre. Former Financial Times Mumbai bureau chief Crabtree considers the Mumbai apartment tower built by billionaire Mukesh Ambani to be the pre-eminent symbol of “the power of India’s new elite,” one that pointedly emphasizes the sharp divide between rich and poor in the country—and indeed, the divide between the merely rich and the superrich. The creation of a class of hyperwealthy commoners owes at least in some measure to domestic economic reforms meant to advance a free market but that, instead, in combination with modernization and globalization, ushered in an era of staggering corruption, with the government machinery simply unable to keep up with a wave of crony capitalism. “The 1991 reforms,” writes the author, gave “Indians a taste of a new world of mobile phones, multi-channel television and foreign consumer goods.” They also inaugurated an enthusiasm for globalization that is largely unmatched; most Indians, Crabtree asserts, are all for it. However, support for globalization does not necessarily mean support for the greatest beneficiaries of it; anti-corruption campaigns are increasingly commonplace. Yet state apparatus is too inefficient to do much about it. As Crabtree notes, there are so many layers of bureaucracy that a would-be entrepreneur has to negotiate that it’s only natural for a businessperson to try “to strike a deal towards the top of the decision-making chain.” Corruption has not moderated under the “big-government conservative” Narendra Modi, who, Crabtree foresees, will in his second term yield to the temptation to substitute nationalism for economic reform, following the path set by Putin in Russia and Erdogan in Turkey. Even so, writes the author, it is not inevitable that India become “a saffron-tinged version of Russia.”

Solid reading for students of economic development and global economics.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6006-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


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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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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