Fiscal-policy wonks will find this look at the financial system illuminating, though ordinary investors and civilians will...

THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN

CENTRAL BANKS, INSTABILITY, AND AVOIDING THE NEXT COLLAPSE

The chair of Barack Obama’s Global Development Council warns that the economy is bound for more bumpiness, stress, and course-altering ahead, “potentially quite suddenly.”

El-Erian (When Markets Collide, 2008) charts the changing role of central banks in national economies and the global economy at large. Their overarching mission is to provide their home nations with a stable currency and, beyond that, stable monetary and financial operations—macro goals that are defined by government but then effected by bankers. The bankers have lately exercised more and more autonomy, though, without much direct political control and with ever expanding responsibilities to govern the “fate of the global economy.” In the case of the Federal Reserve, for instance, stability is understood to involve providing for stable prices, economically productive interest rates, and a thriving job market while reducing risk—all good goals but hard to contain under one roof. In the new climate of a post-recessionary nervousness and a sluggish recovery without the elastic rebound of previous ones, the author suggests, we seem to be in a different mode than the business cycle of old. Consequently, central banks are experimenting, even making things up as they go along, in order to jump-start economies, for instance, by putting into place negative interest rates and other “unconventional monetary policies” without any precedent or historical examples to follow. The natural result is instability from above and below, from the supply side and the demand side, and a “new normal” that the author wishes could be seen as a “new abnormal.” Central banks, their briefs thus much expanded, must do what they can to contain market volatility. As El-Erian’s discussion moves on, it becomes increasingly technical so that, by the end, readers must contemplate the challenging implications of, say, limiting exposure to “any specific set of securities that has a repeated history of suddenly losing market liquidity.”

Fiscal-policy wonks will find this look at the financial system illuminating, though ordinary investors and civilians will find it daunting.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9762-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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