An everyman’s chronicle of the Great Recession, one that laments what was lost but leaves room for hope in American...

THE GREAT ECONOMIC TRAIN WRECK

WHEN AMERICA WENT OFF THE RAILS: HOW THE NATION'S FINANCIAL CRISIS LOOKS FROM MAIN STREET

A blow-by-blow account of the 2008–2009 financial meltdown from the Main Street perspective.

Clark, the host of the “Kevin Clark Business Minute radio show, explores how the 2008 crash underscores the divide between Washington and the average American. The Michigan-based financial advisor compiled his weekly radio commentaries during the financial collapse into a diary of sorts that captured the anxiety felt in America’s heartland while leaders struggled to get the economy back on track. After Lehman Brothers folded, several other financial institutions entered dire straits, shattering the dreams of regular people; Clark was “overwhelmed, frustrated and angry.” He exhorted his listeners to believe in American perseverance, although his writings reflect the gloom brought on by a plunging stock market and double-digit unemployment. A journal entry reveals how the financial-services veteran of 27 years found himself bewildered by the fallout: “I find the amount of wealth destroyed in the past six months as truly staggering.” Along with a timeline that follows every turn of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the book delves into possible long-term implications. Clark frets about inflation and the expansion of government amid news of corporate bailouts, Federal Reserve bond-buying and ballooning national debt. But the author is at his best when he puts a human face on the calamity. The story of a retired couple who lost their savings reminds us that recessions are more than declines in GDP. Clark sometimes criticizes the Obama administration, and he discloses that he served on Republican Pete Hoekstra’s unsuccessful campaign for governor. While the book doesn’t shy away from the intersection of politics and finance, it’s more about protecting average investors than pushing policy. Clark seeks to educate, and his homespun parables mitigate the jaded tone that sometimes creeps in. The result is a blend of pragmatism and optimism that speaks to a truth of investing: Opportunity is often found somewhere between fear and fact.

An everyman’s chronicle of the Great Recession, one that laments what was lost but leaves room for hope in American resiliency.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1599322810

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Advantage Media Group

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

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

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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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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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