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THE NATIONALIST REVIVAL

TRADE, IMMIGRATION, AND THE REVOLT AGAINST GLOBALIZATION

Wonkish but of broad interest to students of geopolitics, international affairs, and economics.

The longtime political journalist limns the rise of Trumpian nationalism in the face of a bewilderingly global world.

The word “cosmopolitan” is freighted, but Talking Points Memo editor at large Judis (The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, 2016, etc.) does not hesitate to put it to work in characterizing the current political rift between left and right not as a battle between nationalists and liberals but as one between nationalists and cosmopolitans, namely metropolitan or college town–dwelling elites who own a passport, have graduated from good schools, and make up the upper rungs of the professions. “When Trump supporters blame America’s ills on liberals,” writes the author, “they are generally talking about cosmopolitans.” The words aside, the central point is that Trump’s left-leaning opponents tend to favor open borders, his supporters walls and immigration bans. Trump was able to leverage these worldviews—social psychologies, even, to trust Judis—to present the case that Americans were being robbed of their patrimony. “He had been complaining since the late 1980s,” notes Judis, “about America losing out on trade to Japan and then China and being taken advantage of by its allies in Europe.” After surveying its history, the author argues that some form of nationalism is useful as a “framework within which citizens and their governments deliberate about what to do—and justify what they have done." In this regard, a nationalist ideology need not necessarily be bigoted or exclusive; Judis argues that nationalism is “an essential ingredient of political democracies” while allowing that it can also underlie authoritarianism and fascism. Against this background, the author proposes that Trumpian nationalism, a zero-sum game in which there are only winners and losers, need not be the only alternative to an internationalism by which nations cede sovereignty, as with the European Union. Indeed, he suggests, international cooperation is best effected by sovereign nations at whose helm is a single great power, as with Great Britain in the 19th century and—well, perhaps China in the 21st.

Wonkish but of broad interest to students of geopolitics, international affairs, and economics.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997454-0-3

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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