Despite the occasional good point, Nader’s current influence extends no farther than preaching to the choir.




The consumer gadfly and former third-party candidate continues to offer answers to the nation’s political problems.

Having published one book of letters he had written to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama without receiving any response (Return to Sender, 2015), Nader returns with imaginary letters he would have written to those presidents during times of crisis, an imagined encounter between Obama and the ghost of Osama bin Laden, and various lists “to promote a people’s agenda.” The author recognizes that in the public eye, he has been branded with “the politically bigoted word ‘spoiler’" since his Green Party candidacy might have tipped the 2000 election of Bush over Al Gore, but he insists that Bernie Sanders played the same role and faced the same charges: “The unfortunate truth Bernie discovered was that anybody who challenges the positions of the corporatist, militaristic, Wall Street–funded Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton…is, by their twisted definition, a ‘spoiler.’" Not that there was all that much to spoil, in Nader’s analysis, though he never says that the Democrats would be as bad as “the self-destructive, unstable, unorganized, fact- and truth-starved, egomaniacal, bigoted, cheating, plutocratic Donald Trump.” However, he holds what he calls “the ObamaBush White House” responsible for the rise of Trump and chastises Obama for not targeting his predecessor as “a war criminal.” Nader draws from old clippings and some of his own writing at the time to make familiar complaints about Obama governing more toward the center after campaigning as more of a progressive and about the claims of progressivism by the hawkish and corporate-funded Hillary. He insists that the Electoral College, responsible for Trump’s victory, is “antiquated, atavistic,” and way overdue for reform, if not removal. For the most part, though, he seems to want to have a direct voice in this discussion rather than shouting from far away on the sidelines.

Despite the occasional good point, Nader’s current influence extends no farther than preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60980-847-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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