A rational, welcome exploration of an international trade that is now at a crossroads, becoming less global than regional.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

HOW GLOBALIZATION CHANGED FROM MOVING STUFF TO SPREADING IDEAS

One-time Economist editor Levinson outlines a new phase in the history of globalization.

The author’s history of the standardized shipping container, The Box, spoke to an instrument of global trade that enabled a key chapter in economic history: the ability to transport raw materials to faraway manufacturing centers and ship finished goods to commercial centers around the globe. That “Third Globalization,” as Levinson calls it, does much to render national borders immaterial, at least in some respects: “When a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of industrial abrasives with plants in twenty-seven countries could be owned by a Paris-based corporation that counted Dutch pension funds, British investment trusts, and Middle Eastern governments among its major shareholders, who was to say whether the resulting entity was ‘French,’ ‘American,’ or just ‘international’?” Borders may have been erased, but discontent is high in countries from which manufacturing jobs fled—foremost among them the U.S. Globalization writ large has been a good thing, Levinson argues, for people around the world, lifting huge populations out of poverty. But it has also fueled inequality, and far-flung supply chains are risky propositions. Moreover, resentments among industrial workers in the wealthy nations of the West have since led to a resurgence of nationalism, accompanied by the recent rise of authoritarian leaders around the world. The new, fourth phase of globalization is in some ways a response to tightened borders, tariffs, and economic retrenchment. Now it hinges on intellectual capital, and economic activity can zip around the globe in seconds without crossing physical borders. Many commercial goods can be downloaded (movies) or 3-D-printed while “technology is making it easier to manufacture on a smaller scale” for a bespoke audience. Levinson deals lucidly with thorny matters of fiscal and trade policy, and though his book presupposes an interest in such things, it requires no background in economics to follow it.

A rational, welcome exploration of an international trade that is now at a crossroads, becoming less global than regional.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-691-19176-8

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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