An educational, highly useful primer on what’s broken and how to fix it.



A succinct body of essays by knowledgeable, sympathetic observers on the grievances of the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

Byrne (A Genius for Living: The Life of Frieda Lawrence, 1995) organizes the collection into three parts: “How We Got There,” “Where We Are Now” and “Solutions.” Economists Paul Krugman and Robin Wells give a crisp historical overview on how the excoriated “1 percent” quadrupled its real income between 1979 and 2007, leaving America as unequal as it had been on the eve of the Great Depression and unable to implement an adequate government policy because of the recent Congressional paralysis. Philip Dray reminds readers of the “enduring and seminal” legacy of protest movements preceding OWS, such as the Great Rail Strike of 1877 and the spontaneous lunch-counter sit-ins by black students in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960. Michael Hiltzik finds a good lesson in the Townsend movement of 1933, which demanded government attention to the concerns of the aged. Unsurprisingly, the machinations of Wall Street dominate many of the essays: John Cassidy delves into what was good about Wall Street (addressing the capital-raising needs of their clients) and how it went terribly dysfunctional (exploiting instantaneous trading movements), while the reform of the tax system garners vigorous responses, such as those from Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez. Joel Bakan severely scrutinizes the “psychopathic personhood” of corporations, and Eliot Spitzer proposes income-contingent loans for struggling students. Some of the most fleshed-out essays put the OWS protests into a wider worldwide perspective—e.g., Nouriel Roubini’s simplified economics tutorial on the toll of globalization; and Robert M. Buckley’s daring assessment of the parallels between OWS and the pan-European uprisings of 1848. Other notable contributors include Pankaj Mishra, Barbara Ehrenreich, Paul Volcker, Robert Reich, Scott Turow and Jeffrey Sachs.

An educational, highly useful primer on what’s broken and how to fix it.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-22021-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Back Bay/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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

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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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