Alternating spoonfuls of treacle and wormwood.

A HEART, A CROSS, AND A FLAG

AMERICA TODAY

Wall Street Journal columnist and eloquent Republican apologist Noonan (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, 1994, etc.) reprints pieces that ran weekly in the year following 9/11.

There is nothing new in Noonan. Her universe is as uncomplicated as a Saturday morning Western serial from a half-century ago. There are the good guys (all Republicans), the better guys (Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, Rudy Giuliani), and the best guy (the pope). There are the bad guys (Democrats and liberals), the worse guys (Al Gore and Joe Lieberman), and the worst guy (Bill Clinton). She says Reagan is like a battleship, Clinton like a collapsed accordion. (The latter is also a lazy slob.) George W. Bush is like Truman: decisive, steadfast, diligent, tongue-tied but trustworthy, the real thing in a faux world, a guy who found his soul in the ashes of 9/11. And so on. The author justly—and repeatedly—celebrates the heroism of the emergency workers on that awful day but then indulges in some silly sentimentality about how great it would be to have more retro-males with big muscles and soft hearts who stand to surrender their subway seats to women. She waxes nostalgic for the pervasive patriotism of a century ago but neglects to mention that in those wonderful times her grandmother would not have been allowed to vote, nor would anyone else who failed the tests of gender and race. Oh, but weren’t they the good old days! Noonan rages justifiably against the failures of the American Catholic church in the sex scandals and honors the pope with lovely lines and even a few of her tears. She saw the actual face of Satan in the explosion at Tower Two and writes credulously about a statue of Mary weeping blood. She says we must credit Reagan for the booming ’90s economy, Clinton for 9/11. Corporate greed is bad. Profiling is good.

Alternating spoonfuls of treacle and wormwood.

Pub Date: June 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-5005-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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