An important and unusually engrossing book that merits wide attention.

THE FIX

HOW NATIONS SURVIVE AND THRIVE IN A WORLD IN DECLINE

Foreign Affairs managing editor Tepperman (co-editor: Iran and the Bomb: Solving the Persian Puzzle, 2012, etc.) offers a stirring account of the achievements of risk-taking political leaders.

Based on more than 100 interviews and the author’s deep understanding of international affairs, this welcome book makes “a data-driven case for optimism at a moment of gathering darkness” by exploring how leaders in nations from Brazil and Canada to South Korea and Indonesia have successfully tackled major world problems, including inequality, immigration, corruption, civil war, Islamic extremism, and others. What’s remarkable is Tepperman’s ability to identify and tell the complex stories of places where realistic, pragmatic, and determined leadership at the top has triumphed over staggering challenges. In Rwanda, where 1 million people died in civil warfare between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority, President Paul Kagame used local community tribunals to foster reconciliation based on compromise. In Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto convinced three warring political parties to overcome their differences and govern again. In Singapore, former Prime Minister Harry Lee created good-governance initiatives to battle serious corruption, including a tool kit to detect wrongdoing. Perhaps most fascinating is the market-friendly cash-transfer program begun under former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, which brought some 40 million people into the middle class between 2003 and 2011. Least expected among “nations” overcoming political gridlock is New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg circumvented post–9/11 federal inertia and built a formidable intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus. In each instance, writes the author, government leaders ranging from repressive rulers to liberal democrats embraced crisis as an opportunity for action. Aiming for less than perfection, they expected to make mistakes, gave no faction everything it wanted, and succeeded. While recognizing the unique aspects of each nation’s experience, Tepperman finds lessons that can serve as templates elsewhere. Many readers will be astonished to realize that these success stories—all rendered at length in polished prose—have been lurking amid excessive doom-and-gloom headlines.

An important and unusually engrossing book that merits wide attention.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90298-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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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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