An urgent, timely, and compelling message with nearly limitless implications.

DAVOS MAN

HOW THE BILLIONAIRES DEVOURED THE WORLD

The consequences of unfettered avarice.

New York Times global economics correspondent Goodman mounts a scathing critique of the greed, narcissism, and hypocrisy that characterize those in “the stratosphere of the globe-trotting class,” many of whom gather at the annual World Economic Forum held in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos. Davos Man—an epithet coined by political scientist Samuel Huntington—is “an unusual predator whose power comes in part from his keen ability to adopt the guise of an ally.” The “relentless plunder” perpetrated by Davos Man, Goodman argues persuasively, “is the decisive force behind the rise of right-wing populist movements around the world,” leading to widening economic inequality, intense public anger, and dire threats to democracy. The author closely examines five individuals: private equity magnate Stephen Schwarzman; JPMorgan Chase executive Jamie Dimon; asset manager Larry Fink; Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who promotes himself as “the most empathetic corporate chieftain.” At the same time that these men broadcast their concern for social justice, they enrich themselves by manipulating economies, lobbying politicians, eviscerating regulations, weakening government oversight, and extracting huge tax benefits. Fink’s professed concern for the environment, for example, is really an alarm about risk to investments: “In a world under assault by rising seas and turbulent weather, how safe was real estate, and what were the implications for mortgage-backed securities?” During the mortgage crisis, Schwarzman’s company bought foreclosed properties, amassing a large inventory that it leased to desperate renters. With their yachts, multiple mansions, and private islands, they prove themselves “unmoored from the rest of human experience.” Reining in Davos Man, Goodman asserts, “can happen only through the exercise of democracy—by unleashing strategies centered on boosting wages and working opportunities, by erecting new forms of social insurance, by reviving and enforcing antitrust law, by modernizing the tax code to focus on wealth.”

An urgent, timely, and compelling message with nearly limitless implications.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-307830-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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