The near future, Khanna provocatively writes, will see more seesawing. But, he adds, “the tripolar world should be thought...

THE SECOND WORLD

EMPIRES AND INFLUENCE IN THE NEW GLOBAL ORDER

George Orwell was right: The future will see three contending world powers, their alliances and rivalries with one another ever shifting, and scarcely any peace.

So says think-tanker Khanna, a fellow at the New America Foundation, who posits that the world turns on three empires: the United States, the European Union and China. “Big is back,” he writes. “It is inter-imperial relations—not international or inter-civilizational—that shape the world. Empires—not civilizations—give geography its meaning.” These great superpowers, he adds in a somewhat questionable metaphor, are like bumper cars, sure to careen into each other at some point but without any knowledge of how fast they’ll be hit. History tells us that empires are transitory things, while the poor will be with us always. Somewhere in the middle are the states of the “second world,” which “are frequently both first- and third-world at the same time,” mostly without a middle class but frequently with plenty of wealth and resources. Khanna, in the manner of Robert Kaplan, travels widely in these pages, visiting and writing about such far-flung places as Xinjiang, Chile, Iran and Belgium, as well as the capitals and principal cities of the empires. The second-world states, he suggests, will, like Turkey, find it expedient to maintain relations with all three. Turkey, for instance, will seek ties with Russia and China while seeking partnership in the EU and American-led alliances alike. Thanks to the Iraq War, he notes, the scale is being tipped around the world between the “two Wests” in the EU’s favor, while China is extending its international influence to places such as Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, which “now resembles Iran prior to the overthrow of the Shah.”

The near future, Khanna provocatively writes, will see more seesawing. But, he adds, “the tripolar world should be thought of as a stool: With two legs it cannot stand long; with three it can be stable.”

Pub Date: March 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6508-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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