An accessible interpretive briefing on currency exchange rates and why they matter to a host of constituencies ranging from...

TUG OF WAR

TODAY'S GLOBAL CURRENCY CRISIS

Though best known in recent years as the author of fiscal entertainments (Zero Coupon, 1993, etc.), the Canadian-born Erdman is a bona fide economist and former Swiss banker.

If not invariably prophetic, his periodic observations on the Global Village's monetary systems are always worth attention for their lucid explications of a complex subject. The semi-sensational subtitle accurately reflects Erdman's focus on the long-range implications of the recent run on the US dollar, precipitated largely by the collapse of the Mexican peso and accompanied by a sharp rise in the value of the Japanese yen. Having outlined the major events of what he dubs the currency crisis of 1995, the author sorts through the conflicting claims as to who or what was to blame, subsequently ticking off winners (US exporters) and losers (mainly Japanese investors who had acquired American assets at inflated prices). Moving on to an after-the-fall audit of money markets, Erdman assesses the roles played by so- called speculators (commercial banks as well as hedge funds) and trade blocs (the EU, NAFTA, et al.). Offered as well are worst-case scenarios for an appreciably more competitive but debt-burdened US and a recession-ridden, deflation-afflicted Japan. That, however, is unlikely to happen, according to Erdman. He reminds us that Japan's much-vaunted economy is but one-half to three-fifths the size of America's in terms of purchase power parity, and notes as well that America retains comparative advantages in entrepreneurship, availability of venture capital, and minimal regulatory constraints. Erdman suggests that America (in partnership with a more open, less mercantile Japan) will provide the responsible leadership that ensures a prosperous tomorrow for the wider world.

An accessible interpretive briefing on currency exchange rates and why they matter to a host of constituencies ranging from policy makers to consumers.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-15899-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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