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THE FED UNBOUND

CENTRAL BANKING IN A TIME OF CRISIS

A clear and cogent assessment of how the nation’s central bank might be reformed.

A study of the role of the increasingly powerful Federal Reserve in fostering economic inequality.

Menand, a law professor and former Treasury official, explores the ballooning influence of the nation’s central bank. In tracing the consequences of this expansion of authority, he focuses on the institution’s response to two watershed events: the 2008 financial meltdown and the Covid-19 pandemic. As the author explains, the Fed’s ability to address these challenges was complicated by the deregulation of the banking industry over the last several decades and the rise of alternative forms of currency, and it responded by intervening in the economy in ways that deviate strikingly from its original mandate. The Fed now “fight[s] persistent economic and financial crises by using its balance sheet like an emergency government credit bureau or national investment authority—creating new money to backstop financial firms, expand financial markets, and invest in businesses and municipalities.” Menand makes a persuasive case that the Fed’s escalating interventions, which lack political oversight and are heavily influenced by wealthy stakeholders, have a direct and significant bearing on how the nation’s democracy functions. Current stimulus efforts—including so-called QE Infinity, the theoretically endless acquisition of assets—clearly benefit those who hold sizable financial assets, further polarizing the nation’s economic inequality. Menand’s recommendations point to a larger role for Congress in guiding the Fed along with the creation of so-called “automatic stabilizers,” which would take effect without special congressional directives. Another proposal is stricter supervision of “unregulated private money,” including cryptocurrencies, which pose a grave risk, Menand rightly points out, to the government’s ability to control the economy. He argues persuasively that major restructuring of the Fed would alter the “balance of power between the financial sector and the government so that our system is efficient, equitable, and inclusive.”

A clear and cogent assessment of how the nation’s central bank might be reformed.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73591-370-4

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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WHAT WENT WRONG WITH CAPITALISM

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

A book-length assertion that capitalism’s woes can be traced to government interventionism.

Sharma, an investments manager, financial journalist, and author of The 10 Rules of Successful Nations, The Rise and Fall of Nations, and other books, opens with the case of his native India. The author argues that it should be in a better position in the global marketplace, possessing an entrepreneurial culture and endless human capital. The culprit was “India’s lingering attachment to a state that overpromises and under-delivers,” one that privileged social welfare over infrastructure development. Much the same is true in the U.S., where today “President Joe Biden is promising to fix the crises of capitalism by enlarging a government that never shrank.” Refreshingly, Sharma places just as much blame on Ronald Reagan for the swollen state that introduced distortions into the market. Moreover, “flaws that economists blame on ‘market failures,’ including wealth inequality and inordinate corporate power, often flow more from government excesses.” One distortion is the government’s bloated debt, as it continues to fund itself by borrowing in order to pay for “the perennial deficit.” As any household budget manager would tell you, debt is ultimately unsustainable. Wealth concentration is another outcome of government tinkering that has, whether by design or not, concentrated wealth into the hands of a very small number of people, “a critical symptom of capitalism gone wrong, both inefficient and grossly unfair.” Perhaps surprisingly, Sharma notes that in quasi-socialist economies such as the Scandinavian nations, such interventions are fewer and shallower, while autocratic command economies are doomed to fail. “[T]oday every large developed country is a full-fledged democracy,” he writes, and the more freedom the better—but that freedom, he argues, is undermined by the U.S. government, which has accrued “the widest budget deficit in the developed world.”

Sure to generate debate, and of special interest to adherents of free market capitalism.

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9781668008263

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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