A vital contribution to a discussion that should be at the top of world leaders’ agendas.



A clear argument that the world needs a new approach to refugee policy.

Collier (Economics/St. Antony’s Coll., Oxford; Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World, 2013, etc.) and Betts (Forced Migration and International Affairs/Univ. of Oxford; Survival Migration: Failed Governance and the Crisis of Displacement, 2013, etc.) write that the current global refugee catastrophe is on a scale only comparable to such “major moments of international crisis” as the 1971 breakdown of the international monetary system or the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Many of the assertions and cited statistics may shock readers, especially those who are unaware of the contents of annual reports circulated by the United Nations Refugee Agency. Currently, there are more than 65 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide (“the highest proportion of the world’s population ever recorded: one person in every 113”), and the number of refugees doubled over the past 8 years. Collier and Betts demonstrate beyond reasonable objection that the U.N. has become incapable of fulfilling its statutory mandate to provide protection to refugees and find long-term solutions to their plights. Though the dependence on voluntary contributions from member countries is insufficient, the agency is increasingly forced to deal with escalating problems, which is not sustainable. The authors put blame on widespread “violent disorder” and “mass violence” but note that wars—e.g., in Iraq and Syria—are extreme cases of a crisis driven by the 40 to 60 nations whose existences are considered to be fragile. Of the 65 million global displaced persons, at least 20 million are considered to be cross-border refugees. Roughly half of these are living in camps like the infamous Dadaab in Kenya, and the average stay for such camp-bound refugees is increasing. The remaining 45 million are the internally displaced, including 11 million in Syria. Among other elements of autonomy and humanitarianism, the authors vigorously discuss the absolute necessity of jobs to create “a workable system that can sustainably offer sanctuary to the world’s refugees.”

A vital contribution to a discussion that should be at the top of world leaders’ agendas.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-065915-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“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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