A lucid book grounded in vast knowledge—and equally vast idealism.



The renowned economist builds on his already extensive writings in the hope that policymakers will see the wisdom of altering both political and financial practices to restore the middle class in the United States.

Though Nobel Prize–winning economist Stiglitz (International and Public Affairs/Columbia Univ.; The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe, 2016, etc.) has unquestionably earned the prestige to be heard on nearly any issue related to the economy, he concedes that the cataclysmic changes he proposes would probably never derive from the current Republican Party and might never occur if the Democratic Party controls the White House and Congress. Regardless, the author rarely wallows in pessimism as he presents his extensive platform in language that will be accessible to most general readers. Stiglitz sets the stage for his approachable narrative by recalling his childhood in a healthy industrial city (Gary, Indiana) and how, when he returned to Gary for his 55th high school reunion, the healthy economy had been tainted by a combination of political and economic policies benefitting the ultrawealthy. Those conditions led to massive income inequality, one of the most significant issues facing the country today. Stiglitz pinpoints the causes as a toxic stew of too-big-to-fail banks placing greed above economic growth, government initiatives favoring globalization without protecting American laborers, lack of recognition by both government and the private sector that shifts from a manufacturing economy to a service economy require a new paradigm, and the lack of effective responses to obviously increasing income inequality. In the second part of the book, the author offers a massive platform for change that must be preceded by voters choosing candidates for Congress and the White House who are willing to cast aside the hegemony of the ultrawealthy. As he writes, “achieving greater equality is not just a matter of morals or good economics; it is a matter of the survival of our democracy.”

A lucid book grounded in vast knowledge—and equally vast idealism.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-324-00421-9

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


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

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