Quirky, insightful and enjoyable—a welcome corrective to the typical advice from economists and financial managers steeped...

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

WHAT THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT GETTING AND SPENDING

Vanderkam (168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, 2010, etc.), a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, takes a fresh look at financial planning.

The author debunks the traditional approach to budgeting in which fixed percentages are allocated to predetermined categories that prioritize the basics such as housing and food. According to Vanderkam, the trick to remaining financially solvent without sacrificing is not to scrimp and save on the small items—the lattes and occasional nights out. She offers a road map about how this might be accomplished and substantiates her claim that “the resources we already have or can obtain can do more for our happiness than we think.” A key tenet is that our happiness is not based on the accumulation of big-ticket items—diamond engagement rings, super-sized homes and cars—but on the accumulation of everyday pleasures, especially those activities we share with friends and family. Vanderkam provides thought-provoking examples of how it’s possible, even in a depressed economy, to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities to supplement income as an alternative to penny-pinching self-denial. She also warns of the pitfall inherent in saving for retirement—not only because of the effect that market volatility can have on a nest egg, but also the possibility of inflation. She suggests that it is better to find rewarding work than plan for early retirement, and warns of the dangers of becoming entrapped by the “hedonic treadmill” of increased expectations and spending more for less.

Quirky, insightful and enjoyable—a welcome corrective to the typical advice from economists and financial managers steeped in the “dismal science.”

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-457-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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