The author uses bold strokes to sketch a contrarian view that lay readers will easily grasp, but economists are unlikely to...

THE IMAGINARY ECONOMY

A NEW CONCEPTION

An independent scholar critiques mainstream economics and proposes an original explanation for the rise of service-sector employment.

By “imaginary,” Fabbri (The Downfall of Nations, 2016, etc.) means “the growing part of the economic system that claims to be ‘productive’ and is not.” The “real” economy means tangible goods—agricultural and manufactured products. The text minimizes jargon and is free of mathematical formulas but contains a dozen simple graphic illustrations. The author opens with a chart showing U.S. per capita gross domestic product growing at an “incredibly stable rate of about 1.9% per year for 170 years.” Deriding economists’ “tradition of ignoring what they are unable to explain,” Fabbri devotes a third of his book to proposing psychological, sociological, and physical/time constraints that create a “speed cap for assimilating new forms of consumption.” As technology-driven productivity growth outpaces consumptive capacity and eliminates workers, society invents new, unproductive jobs for them in the imaginary economy. In the second section, the author discusses how this phenomenon operates at micro and macro levels and can stimulate or harm economic development. The final section explores how the imaginary economy produces inefficiencies and irrational thinking. Fabbri displays broad economic fluency, quoting diverse sources, including Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and Paul Samuelson. He identifies the Swiss historian Simonde de Sismondi as advocating moderate economic growth 120 years before John Maynard Keynes formulated his monetary theories. Curiously, the author never mentions Allan Fisher, Colin Clark, or Jean Fourastié, pioneers of three-sector theory—economic development’s progression from raw materials to manufacturing to services. Fabbri, a gifted storyteller, advances his arguments primarily through parables. The text, translated from the Italian by the author and Nixon, reads easily. Fabbri blends logic and humor to inform and entertain. Alas, his anecdotal approach and narrative brio can carry his new conception only so far. His disdain for mathematical economics (one essay is titled “On the futile use of mathematics in economic theories”) precludes testing or proving his concept, much less developing it for predictive purposes.

The author uses bold strokes to sketch a contrarian view that lay readers will easily grasp, but economists are unlikely to embrace his ideas without more quantitative evidence.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 165

Publisher: La fabbrica delle illusioni srls

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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