Short and lively, this is a timely contribution to making the ongoing discussion more productive.

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BEYOND OUTRAGE

WHAT HAS GONE WRONG WITH OUR ECONOMY AND OUR DEMOCRACY, AND HOW TO FIX IT

Reich (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, 2011, etc.) spells out what he thinks citizens need to do to ensure Washington acts on behalf of the public good, not special interests.

Bill Clinton's former labor secretary reports that, due to the emails he receives, he is well aware of the electorate’s mood. He believes citizens must band together “without scapegoating or cynicism” on the basis of “moral clarity and undeniable facts” if they want to succeed. Reich writes that the basic bargain—“that employers paid their workers enough to buy what employers were selling”—underlying America's post–World War II prosperity has been violated, with the result of increasing inequality and poverty. This reversal reflects a deliberate choice, which Reich attributes to “regressives,” embodied by such officials as Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. They want to “return America to the 1920s—before Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, the minimum wage,” etc. Still others, writes the author, want to go back even further, promoting a political revival of 19th-century social Darwinism to justify shameless inequality and survival of the fittest. For Reich, the Republican Party, which disavowed social Darwinism in the 1950s, is marching backward, but the author writes that the Democrats' “stunning failure” to offer an alternative has helped regressives gain political traction. The author outlines a series of organizing initiatives intended to broaden citizen involvement at all levels of government and provides a handy list of the “Ten Biggest Lies” the regressives are using to fuel their campaign.

Short and lively, this is a timely contribution to making the ongoing discussion more productive.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-80437-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

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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