A book best read by policy wonks of a numerate bent but accessible to noneconomists as well.

WELCOME TO THE POISONED CHALICE

THE DESTRUCTION OF GREECE AND THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

A series of essays, letters, and other documents examining the latest Greek tragedy.

Is it possible to save the eurozone? Given the events that have settled on Greece, suggests acclaimed economist Galbraith (Chair, Government/Business Relations/Univ. of Texas; Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2016, etc.), the odds weigh against it; it seems likelier “that the euro will, at some point, in some country, crack.” In one view, the drama of Greece, beset by creditors and pushed into unwonted and unwanted austerity, is merely a “side effect of the global banking and financial disaster” that began to steamroll its way across the world in 2007—a disaster that had its origins in sloppy American fiscal practices and that took down many other economies with it. In another view, it is a continuation of indifferent, occasionally hostile relations between Greece and other European nations, which treat it as an unwelcome guest at the banquet. Galbraith writes sometimes as a journalist, sometimes as a policy analyst, sometimes as an outright advocate for Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek economist and liberal politician who has been leading a resistance movement against European Union–imposed austerity programs that disregard certain Greek realities—e.g., the facts that it has an aging population with a poor system of unemployment insurance as well as “one of Europe’s most militant working classes,” not likely to be compliant with the directives of German banks and Belgian bureaucrats. The breakup of the eurozone, writes the author, might not be an altogether bad thing. And in the place of the euro? It’s anyone’s guess, but Galbraith reminds us that after the gold standard collapsed, Bretton Woods came along, and the world did not end.

A book best read by policy wonks of a numerate bent but accessible to noneconomists as well.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-300-22044-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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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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