A cogent and urgent argument of compelling interest to economists and policymakers.

THE EURO

HOW A COMMON CURRENCY THREATENS THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

A tale of monetary union and its discontents.

Nobel Prize winner Stiglitz (Economics/Columbia Univ.; Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity, 2015, etc.), long a nuanced critic of globalization, turns his attention to the doomed project that is the single European currency, the euro. Doomed, that is, because it presupposes an economic integration into a single economic community that has not been matched by the necessary political integration. The eurozone may be a single entity in theory, but in reality, it harbors competing national interests. Furthermore, any government requires the ability to develop and enforce its own regulations, a cause for conflict within any overarching union. Stiglitz sees within the push for the single currency the same neoliberal motivations as for globalization, a related process, and those, not surprisingly, involve making the rich richer at the expense of the poor. In the case of Europe, the byword for the poor is Greece, the nation that has perhaps suffered most in the cause of economic integration, where wage and pension decreases have had catastrophic effects, including a general devaluation of the economy. “Internal devaluation increases economic fragility by bringing more households and firms to the brink of bankruptcy,” he writes. “Inevitably, they cut back on spending on everything.” Lack of spending in a consumer economy yields disaster, and in the case of Greece, “the best evidence is that a country that goes through a deep downturn never bounces back to make up for what is lost. What is lost is lost forever.” Short of dissolving an economic union that he regards as ill-advised, Stiglitz examines possible palliatives, including allowance for more economic flexibility within the EU, with different areas trading at different values. That economic union can and should be saved, he writes, but only if it truly means the creation of “the shared prosperity and solidarity that was part of the promise of the euro.”

A cogent and urgent argument of compelling interest to economists and policymakers.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-25402-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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