A pleasure for the fiscally minded and a good introduction to applied economics for readers with a smattering of theory.

WHAT WOULD THE GREAT ECONOMISTS DO?

HOW TWELVE BRILLIANT MINDS WOULD SOLVE TODAY'S BIGGEST PROBLEMS

Invisible hand, meet trickle-down: a lightly learned but deep-reaching look at classic economic problems through the lens of classical economics.

Business schools across the land teach a set of canonical precepts: The free market is good and self-correcting, corporations have the sole duty of maximizing return for shareholders, and commerce is indifferent to larger matters of ethics. But are all those points true? Also, are they useful in addressing obdurate problems that seem custom-coined for our time, such as, in the face of economy-must-grow models, the future seems the province of low productivity and lower expansion? Enter BBC broadcaster and Oxford economist Yueh (China's Growth: The Making of an Economic Superpower, 2013, etc.), who turns to Robert Solow, “the author of the workhorse of economic growth models,” for guidance. She also goes against Solow and on to the ground of endogenous growth theory but returns with a humane prescription: Just as Solow located growth in, among other things, how workers are treated, maybe we can learn to retool. (Yueh adds that Solow, still at work in his 90s, also counsels relaxing some: “learning to adjust, to adapt, is not a bad thing for economists to learn.”) And what of quantitative easing in recessive economies? Well, throw Keynes into the mix, then see what Milton Friedman would say about whether increasing the monetary supply is the right thing to do. Concludes Yueh, with sidestepping befitting a careful economist, “it’s fair to say the jury is largely still out.” The author, who once ran for Congress as a kind of made-for-TV thought experiment, has solid, interesting things to say about globalization, human capital, and kindred matters and a correct sense for which economist to bring to the problem at hand, whether Paul Samuelson (“the last of the great general economists”) or Alfred Marshall, the anti-socialist who still supported redistribution—with qualifications.

A pleasure for the fiscally minded and a good introduction to applied economics for readers with a smattering of theory.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-18053-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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