A provocative call to restore economic competition by dismantling the ruling plutocracy.



The title says it all: The major corporations are milking us dry, and the problem is getting worse as they flout “the rules that democracies create to protect their citizens.”

How do monopolies suck? Let Hubbard, the director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, count the ways: They’re anti-democratic, they crush competition and hamper innovation, they’re destroying the planet, and so forth. “We blame the economy for our financial struggles,” she writes, “but the economy is doing just fine. The problem is that the ultrarich are hoarding its spoils.” The game is rigged from the start, though those spoils have been increasingly rolling into the vaults of the mega-wealthy ever since the Reagan years, when the interests of the middle class were jettisoned in favor of the predatory capitalism of today. Hubbard clearly shows how monopolies are established in numerous ways. For instance, in the matter of internet access, very few consumers have a choice between more than two providers, “meaning broadband providers can charge monopoly prices in most of America.” Where municipalities have provided broadband, as in the case of Chattanooga, lobbyists have pressed to quash this “unfair” competition legally. In another instance, four leading poultry producers conspired to fix prices, costing families an average of $330 extra per year—and that’s just poultry. Monopolistic corporations gather consumer data (see: Amazon, Google, Facebook), parasitize the economy (“Walmart employees make up the single largest group of food stamp recipients in many states”), and promote inequality and “inequities in our society, like structural racism and patriarchy.” Hubbard’s argument is convincing without being overbearing. Usefully, she also makes the case that monopolies have been broken before in American history (think Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting) and that there are anti-monopolistic tools already available to federal enforcers—if only they would use them.

A provocative call to restore economic competition by dismantling the ruling plutocracy.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982149-70-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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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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