Reich’s overriding message is that we don’t have to put up with things as they are. It’s a useful and necessary one, if not...

SAVING CAPITALISM

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW

An accessible examination of how the “apparent arbitrariness and unfairness of the economy [has] undermined the public’s faith in its basic tenets.”

Since leaving the cabinet of the Bill Clinton administration, in which he served as secretary of labor, Reich (Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong with Our Economy and Our Democracy and How to Fix It, 2012, etc.) has worked a populist vein of protest against corporate excess. In this nontechnical economic manifesto, he opens with the nostalgic vision of an American past in which ordinary people could afford to buy a home and pay for college on a single income, a time long gone precisely because the economy has been reorganized for the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of the laboring and middle classes. Reich holds that government, long despised as the problem and not the solution, actually has a role, if abrogated, “in setting the rules of the economic game.” In the absence of sufficient government oversight, the rich have been setting those rules, and—no surprise—an ideally level playing field tilts in such a way that they get all the goals. The author takes a measured view even as he argues against free market orthodoxies, insisting, “rules create markets,” rules set by governments and not individuals. Reich examines key problem areas such as antitrust regulation and the tightening corporate stranglehold over intellectual property, and he arrives at some innovative reforms—e.g., paying all Americans a guaranteed annual income, a thought not quite as radical as it might seem and backed by an odd-bedfellow assortment of libertarians and conservatives. He also suggests making Americans shareholders of the intellectual property market, requiring a payment of royalties into the public domain as the cost of holding a patent.

Reich’s overriding message is that we don’t have to put up with things as they are. It’s a useful and necessary one, if not likely to sway the powers that be to become more generous of their own volition.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-35057-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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