A convincing treatise on the value of immigration, though not necessarily on the virtuousness of the American dream.


Guardians of the Dream


An impassioned defense of immigration and the strength of the American dream.

As he describes in this highly personal account of immigration to America, Hsu arrived in America from Taiwan with $500 in his pocket. He’s now the very successful founder of an environmental engineering and renewable energy company. The story sounds a bit simplistic at first, and indeed in this debut work, Hsu doesn’t shy away from his beliefs that the American dream is alive and well and that he is proof of this theory. He opens the book bemoaning the fact that Americans feel so negative and cynical about their country, though he spends little time actually trying to understand why that might be. Instead, his mission is a more positive one—and not wholly ineffective. According to Hsu, one in 30 people around the globe wants to permanently leave his or her country and move to the United States. Rather than focusing on the pessimism he cites early on, he reminds readers that, for nonnatives, the country often holds nothing but promise. “In spite of all the controversy surrounding immigration policies,” he writes, “America remains the most welcoming place for immigrants.” Further, Hsu is also quite convincing when talking about the positive effects of immigration on the American economy, as when he reminds readers that immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than nonimmigrants. Hsu effectively relates his own story and those of other successful immigrants, but on the downside, his argument would be stronger if he made more effort to understand why certain populations, native and nonnative, might not feel that “making it” in America is merely a matter of perseverance and hard work. Some of the statements—“Here, it’s not about who your parents are or where your family is from. It’s about your ability to dream big and the determination to get there”—may seem shortsighted and narrow-minded, particularly to someone who grew up impoverished and with few educational opportunities. The book would have been strengthened by an acknowledgment of such and by including a broader discussion of how to open opportunities for everyone.

A convincing treatise on the value of immigration, though not necessarily on the virtuousness of the American dream.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0986073502

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Maxwell Publishing LLC

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

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


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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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.


A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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