The author’s humane proposal for economic reform, far from impractical, makes for provocative reading for development...

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A WORLD OF THREE ZEROS

THE NEW ECONOMICS OF ZERO POVERTY, ZERO UNEMPLOYMENT, AND ZERO NET CARBON EMISSIONS

A book to make Wall Street quake—if Wall Street paid attention to the developing world.

The classic description of capitalism, writes Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yunus (Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs, 2010, etc.), assumes that the free market imposes curbs on economic inequality. In fact, it does not work that way, and inequality is growing markedly across the world, requiring a rethinking of the tenets of not only free-market capitalism, but also the marketplace. Such a rethinking, by the author’s account in this hortatory but accessible text, makes room for a hybrid “social business” that is not quite for-profit and not quite nonprofit but something that partakes of both while leveraging the human propensity for selflessness. In this regard, Yunus’ experiments in microfinance and microcredit, loaning small sums of money to businesspeople actual and aspiring, are cases in point. At the same time, he adds, a re-envisioned economics will recognize that humans are naturally entrepreneurs, best served not by jobs as such but by opportunities to make their own ventures in the marketplace. Again, his microfinancial work “introduced a new program of offering new-entrepreneur loans from Grameen Bank to support…efforts to create businesses” on the part of young Bangladeshis. Entrepreneurship catering to the mass market, Yunus argues, will prove more sustainable in the end than “trying to sell a few more luxury goods to a handful of wealthy people who already have more things than they will ever need.” A third plank of a revised economics includes sustainable, clean energy, which Yunus believes developing nations are better positioned to adapt than many advanced economies, precisely because they are more of a blank slate. While antithetical to the prevailing capitalism, the author’s reforms, he insists, will yield an economic system that more closely corresponds to who humans really are: partners and not predators.

The author’s humane proposal for economic reform, far from impractical, makes for provocative reading for development specialists.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61039-757-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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