Picking up the cudgels wielded by Ida Tarbell and her fellow trustbusters, McGoey produces a startling report.



McGoey (Sociology/Univ. of Essex) probes the business motivations of contemporary philanthropic organizations.

“One of the most acute ironies concerning the size of today’s philanthropic foundations,” writes the author, “is that the emergence of will-financed, politically powerful behemoths is rooted in a political philosophy that cautioned against using the centralized power of states to plan or develop economic growth.” McGoey charges that philanthropy does not necessarily help the underserved and poor, and it often undermines taxation and preserves both wealth and inequality. The author exemplifies her argument by concentrating on Bill Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Business and philanthropy have always been related, she insists; the giving of Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller was driven by a desire to counter hostile public opinion. The author takes up the question of “whether a self-interested action can ever be truly philanthropic,” and she draws attention to “a new, pugnacious, explicitly commercial form of philanthropy.” As the author notes, current charity law does not prevent philanthropists—and their organizations—from donating to for-profit private companies, as long as the “grant is used for solely charitable purposes.” Gates, a hands-on leader, oversees donations and their effects, and in 2013, his organization became “the largest single donor” to the World Health Organization. This provides considerable political clout, and experts have questioned the effectiveness of his polio and HIV/AIDS programs abroad. In the U.S., his funds have gone largely to education, but when initiatives are deemed failures and shut down, recipients have little recourse. There is a public interest, as McGoey acknowledges, in both health and education, where accountability and continuity are primary concerns. Private initiative, tainted by corporate entanglement, often lacks accountability and can cause stability to be replaced by personal whims. The author stresses that much good has been accomplished, as well, but questions continue to accumulate.

Picking up the cudgels wielded by Ida Tarbell and her fellow trustbusters, McGoey produces a startling report.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78478-083-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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

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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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.


Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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