by Mehrsa Baradaran ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 6, 2015
A comprehensive addition to the ongoing discussions of both inequality and the financial system.
In this debut, Baradaran (Univ. of Georgia School of Law) charges that nearly half of the American population has been deprived of access to financial services at a fair price thanks to financial deregulation.
The author spotlights the situation of “the other half” who are denied access to banking services or credit, and she cites government statistics showing that “over half the households in the United States could not come up with just $400 to cover a medical emergency without having to borrow, and 60 percent lacked enough money to get by for three months.” They also have to spend about 10 percent of their annual income just to access their own money. This makes them vulnerable to payday and other predatory lenders. People who use payday lenders, writes the author, do not do so out of “irresponsibility or ignorance.” In fact, “many people need small loans.” Baradaran argues that the financial crisis of 2007-2008 is a perfect demonstration of how widespread deregulation has replaced the previous social contract between government, banks, and citizens. The author identifies “the pivotal transformation” as the banks' successful campaign over decades to be freed of regulation and treated like any other for-profit corporation. When Barack Obama's administration attempted to make the bailout conditional, the banks refused. The previous recognition that banks are a public service, and should be treated as such (Supreme Court Justice Brandeis called them “public utilities”), no longer figured in the balance. Now, the continuing profitability of the large banks, which hold more than 50 percent of financial assets, comes first. The author also discusses alternate forms of private banking, which were intended to address this public need, and Baradaran points to the pre-1970 role of the U.S. Postal Service in promoting communication and access to finance for small businesses and citizens.A comprehensive addition to the ongoing discussions of both inequality and the financial system.
Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015
Page Count: 324
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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