Mostly intriguing in its historical analysis but lacking in useful countermeasures or solutions.

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THE DEEP STATE

THE FALL OF THE CONSTITUTION AND THE RISE OF A SHADOW GOVERNMENT

An insider’s account of the “secret and unaccountable shadow government” that really runs the country.

Former Congressional staffer Lofgren (The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, 2012) draws on nearly three decades of work in national security and military affairs to provide an overview of the web of power brokers extending from Wall Street to Washington, D.C., to Silicon Valley. They ensure—no matter which political party is in power—the continuation of policies behind “the war on terrorism and the militarization of foreign policy, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure that has given us the most unequal society in almost a century, and the political dysfunction that has paralyzed day-to-day governance.” No conspiracy, writes the author, this hidden “Deep State” has arisen from historical circumstances dating to the end of World War II. Its leaders, from government, finance, and industry, are united in a web of influence that includes contractors, think-tank experts, lobbyists, and other nonelected players, all connected by money and mutual goals. The resulting political oligarchy “maintain[s] the outward form, but not the spirit, of constitutional government.” While offering no startling revelations, Lofgren ably details the history and influence of this behind-the-scenes ruling class, whose members shuttle between high posts in corporations and government (and among government administrations), with occasional think-tank and Ivy League teaching stints. They include such individuals as Donald Rumsfeld (the “most egregious” example of these elite players’ “boundless self-confidence” and “overweening sense of self-importance”), former Gen. David Petraeus (now at KKR, an equity firm), and Paul Wolfowitz (at the American Enterprise Institute). In the wake of his alarming, often barbed chronicle of these well-entrenched bureaucrats, Lofgren’s suggested reforms—e.g., eliminating money from politics, downsizing the military, and staying out of the Middle East—will strike many as absurd.

Mostly intriguing in its historical analysis but lacking in useful countermeasures or solutions.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42834-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 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.

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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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