An important and unusually engrossing book that merits wide attention.

READ REVIEW

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more