by Kathleen Day ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 8, 2019
A fluent if dispiriting study of an economic system that forgives those at the top so long as those at the bottom remain...
A history of American financial crises, “boom-and-bust cycles of panics, failures, and the loss of individuals’ savings.”
Following the financial meltdown of 2008, writes former business journalist Day (Business Administration/Johns Hopkins Business School; S&L Hell: The People and the Politics Behind the $1 Trillion Savings and Loan Scandal, 1993), Queen Elizabeth II asked faculty at the London School of Economics why no one had noticed. It was, they said, “principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people.” As the author clearly shows, national and international economic systems involve many bright people, but the experts often fail—and, “given the political landscape, they will again.” Day ably documents a succession of crises that ought to have imparted essential lessons but that instead fueled further crises—e.g., tariffs or Andrew Jackson’s undoing of Alexander Hamilton’s national bank system, Jackson being the predecessor Donald Trump seems most to admire. Much of the author’s story concerns efforts to separate banking and investment, which Franklin Roosevelt characterized as “speculation with other people’s money”; every time the two are separated, of course, politicians join them together anew only to usher in another crisis. In several respects, Day shows, the 2008 crisis can be traced to 1929 and even farther back, with banks gambling and losing and government, after 1929, bailing them out as part of a “social contract…in which banks agreed to stricter oversight and tighter rules in exchange for a government safety net in times of crisis.” The collapse of the savings and loan industry in the 1980s, the Enron debacle, Charlie Keating’s junk bonds, the Great Recession: All, by Day’s well-defended account, are of a piece, showing once again, as if proof were needed, that history teaches only that humans do not learn from history.A fluent if dispiriting study of an economic system that forgives those at the top so long as those at the bottom remain willing to foot the bill.
Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019
Page Count: 440
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 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.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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