A welcome user’s guide to maneuvering the thicket of lies that constitutes so much discourse today.

Able dissection of the lies corporations and their reputation handlers tell to “defend the indefensible.”

We hear it all the time: Raise the minimum wage, and jobs will disappear. The free market regulates itself more effectively than the government can. Raise taxes on wealthy people and—yes, jobs will disappear. Hanauer, Walsh, and Cohen calls these specimens of “concern-trolling” part of a spurious “protection racket for the superrich,” always with a hidden threat that if you don’t give them what they want, the plutocrats will pick up their toys and go home. By the authors’ account, the arguments the superrich and their vassals make hinge on six major tenets, ranging from the overarching thought that any attempt at reform will only make matters worse to the familiar canard that efforts at economic justice are socialism in action. As the narrative proceeds, they pepper it with supporting quotations from oligarch-adjacent organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which once held—in the face of any number of workplace violations—that “employers do not deliberately allow work conditions to exist which cause injury or illness.” Just so, a former Reagan-era secretary of the interior insisted that climate change in the form of a disappearing ozone layer affected only people who stood out in the sun, as if a sizable portion of the workforce didn’t labor outdoors. As the authors note, it has always been this way. When Grover Cleveland first called for an income tax on “the top 1 percent at the time…howls of complaint ensued.” Today those factories of disinformation persist in the form of think tanks, ad agencies, PACs, and—well, politicians of a certain party, all of whom the authors urge be combatted by asking hard questions: “Who’s telling the story, and how do they stand to benefit from the status quo?”

A welcome user’s guide to maneuvering the thicket of lies that constitutes so much discourse today.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781620977514

Page Count: 176

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023


For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.

The noted conservative economist delivers arguments both fiscal and political against social justice initiatives such as welfare and a federal minimum wage.

A Black scholar who has lived through many civil rights struggles, Sowell is also a follower of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that free market solutions are available for every social problem. This short book begins with what amounts to an impatient declaration that life isn’t fair. Some nations are wealthy because of geographical advantages, and some people are wealthy because they’re smarter than others. “Some social justice advocates may implicitly assume that various groups have similar developed capabilities, so that different outcomes appear puzzling,” he writes. In doing so, he argues, they fail to distinguish between equal opportunity and equal capability. Sowell is dismissive of claims that Black Americans and other minorities are systematically denied a level playing field: Put non-white kids in charter schools, he urges, and presto, their math scores will zoom northward as compared to those in public schools. “These are huge disparities within the same groups, so that neither race nor racism can account for these huge differences,” he writes, clearly at pains to distance himself from the faintest suggestion that race has anything to do with success or failure in America. At the same time, he isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea that economic inequalities exist, and he tries to finesse definitions to suit his convictions: “The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are misleading in another and more fundamental sense. These terms apply to people’s stock of wealth, not their flows of income.” As for crime? Give criminals more rights, he asserts, as with Miranda v. Arizona, and crime rates go up—an assertion that overlooks numerous other variables but fits Sowell’s ideological slant.

For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9781541603929

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023



Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

Close Quickview