Punchy prose and canny muckraking make for an informative, entertaining challenge to economic orthodoxy.



An unholy alliance of Wall Street bankers, energy traders, OPEC pooh-bahs and complaisant government regulators are pillaging the American economy, according to these savvy, feisty polemics.

Learsy, a commodities trader, updates his previous entry in this series with a new collection of his Huffington Post blogs. His pieces circle around two great swindles: First, the government bailout of select financial institutions, especially its rescue of insurance giant AIG; he alleges that Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein cooked up the bailout during secret phone calls so that Goldman’s and other banks’ holdings of AIG derivatives could be paid off with taxpayer money. Second, the run-up in oil prices was in a market the author believes to have been glutted by stored oil and manipulated refinery capacities. (Learsy thinks petroleum should be trading for around $30 per barrel, not $100.) Here Learsy targets many culprits: banks that speculate in oil using virtually free loans from the Fed and FDIC-insured deposits; Saudi officials who restrict oil output; President Obama, who could burst the price bubble by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and newspapers that peddle peak-oil alarmism, which Learsy smartly debunks. Other selections support a high-speed rail system, warn of looming global food shortages, and cheerlead for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Learsy’s writing has a blunt, plainspoken style—sample headline: “The Oil Market Plays Casino While the Obama Administration Acts as Croupier”—that sits well with his populist indictment of Wall Street and its patsies in Washington. He has an insider’s knowledge of the intricacies within the global financial web, which he explains with clarity and biting wit; yet he’s not afraid to take bold, iconoclastic positions. (Among his anti-market heresies are calls for nationalizing the oil industry and establishing an American grain cartel.) At times, though, Learsy’s prescriptions trip over themselves; economists and environmentalists will choke at his suggestion that we step up off-shore drilling to bring down oil prices—and then impose gasoline rationing to force Americans to conserve. But that’s just one questionable pitch among better cases to be made in this take-no-prisoners savaging of the global economy’s oily underbelly.

Punchy prose and canny muckraking make for an informative, entertaining challenge to economic orthodoxy.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469903293

Page Count: 240

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.


Everyone’s favorite avuncular socialist sends up a rousing call to remake the American way of doing business.

“In the twenty-first century we can end the vicious dog-eat-dog economy in which the vast majority struggle to survive,” writes Sanders, “while a handful of billionaires have more wealth than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.” With that statement, the author updates an argument as old as Marx and Proudhon. In a nice play on words, he condemns “the uber-capitalist system under which we live,” showing how it benefits only the slimmest slice of the few while imposing undue burdens on everyone else. Along the way, Sanders notes that resentment over this inequality was powerful fuel for the disastrous Trump administration, since the Democratic Party thoughtlessly largely abandoned underprivileged voters in favor of “wealthy campaign contributors and the ‘beautiful people.’ ” The author looks squarely at Jeff Bezos, whose company “paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2017 and 2018.” Indeed, writes Sanders, “Bezos is the embodiment of the extreme corporate greed that shapes our times.” Aside from a few passages putting a face to avarice, Sanders lays forth a well-reasoned platform of programs to retool the American economy for greater equity, including investment in education and taking seriously a progressive (in all senses) corporate and personal taxation system to make the rich pay their fair share. In the end, he urges, “We must stop being afraid to call out capitalism and demand fundamental change to a corrupt and rigged system.” One wonders if this firebrand of a manifesto is the opening gambit in still another Sanders run for the presidency. If it is, well, the plutocrats might want to take cover for the duration.

Even if they're pie-in-the-sky exercises, Sanders’ pitched arguments bear consideration by nonbillionaires.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593238714

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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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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