Fiscal and monetary policy wonks will admire Garten’s skillful narrative and thorough research.

THREE DAYS AT CAMP DAVID

HOW A SECRET MEETING IN 1971 TRANSFORMED THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

A densely detailed and highly charged account of the Nixon administration’s abandonment of the gold standard.

Scratch a certain kind of old-school conservative, and you’ll hit a nerve that’s still raw over the restructuring of U.S. currency to tie it to the open market and not to the fixed exchange rate linked to a government stockpile of gold. Even Nixon himself wasn’t sold on the idea, though some of his economic advisers successfully argued that the fixed rate led to trade protectionism and discouraged international partners from developing the economic robustness that would allow them to shoulder their fair share of the burden of, say, maintaining NATO. By 1971, writes Garten, dean emeritus of the Yale School of Management, “the dollar–gold problem seemed too big and too complex, and no one was sure how to fix it without causing major global upheavals.” Hence the weekendlong secret meeting at Camp David that brought together economic strategists of varying ideological stripes. One was Arthur Burns, head of the Federal Reserve, once a strong Nixon ally who became dismayed by the president’s politicization of the economy. Though Nixon resisted Keynesian wage and price controls that some of those advisers would propound, he eventually realized “that only mandatory regulations would suffice.” While sometimes succumbing to the thick prose of the dismal science, Garten delivers incisive portraits of key players such as John Connally, secretary of the treasury; George Schultz, who “foreshadowed more than anyone else the Thatcher-Reagan revolution of extensive deregulation that was less than a decade away”; and Pete Peterson, who “captured Nixon’s attention by focusing on the decline of U.S. competitiveness and the measures necessary to reverse the nation’s deteriorating position.” In the end, although it meant that the U.S. acknowledged that it was not the sole arbiter of the world economy and surrendered some political power as well, the Camp David meeting and restructuring of the economy was “an impressive achievement.”

Fiscal and monetary policy wonks will admire Garten’s skillful narrative and thorough research.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288767-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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