THE ROAD TO HELL

THE RAVAGING EFFECTS OF FOREIGN AID AND INTERNATIONAL CHARITY

Maren hurls stinging accusations and makes them stick: He paints development agencies (such as CARE) as self-perpetuating opportunists, funding their significant overhead through the misery of the world's unfortunates. Drawing on his own experience as an aid worker and journalist in Somalia and on the disastrous professional relationship there of aid worker Chris Cassidy with the relief organization Save the Children, Maren examines the economic and humanitarian damage done, ironically, by the very organizations that distribute free food or administer development projects in the name of famine relief. Somalia, of course, recently saw one of the world's largest mobilizations of humanitarian aid. But approximately two thirds of food shipments for refugees in Maren's area of Somalia were being stolen. Some of the stolen food was sold on the black market in order to purchase arms, which in turn escalated conflicts, often creating more refugees. Foreign aid destroyed what was left of local markets by flooding the country with cheap or free food, thus ruining the livelihood of many farmers. Others became ``rich from food''; one Somali referred to his second wife as ``CARE wife,'' because the overabundance of relief food he sold enabled him to marry again. Free food also created a disincentive for development- project participants. Somali nomads, for instance, traditionally disdainful of farming, were unlikely to take up agriculture when food was plentiful. Throughout, Maren unleashes caustic salvos against the relief industry—with substantiation. The book is tenaciously and passionately researched through interviews with key players and references to primary documents. Much of what Maren uncovers is shocking, some of it surreal. The agency AmeriCares, for instance, often serves corporate rather than relief interests; it sent 17 tons of Pop Tarts to Bosnia and 12,000 Maidenform bras to earthquake victims in Japan. An uncompromising look at the thriving industry of relief agencies—which may do more harm than good to those they purport to serve.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82800-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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