Contains some wishful thinking, but many readers will appreciate this admirable effort in pursuit of a more perfect union.


The Socially Efficient Government and Intelligent Democracy


A call to alter the ways of governmental policymaking that hinder democracies from reaching their full potential.

It’s easy to critique the shortcomings of democratic political systems but much more challenging to offer plausible remedies. Coad admirably takes on this daunting task, though some readers might prefer to see more illustrative examples employed throughout the text. However, when Coad does provide examples, they are well-chosen and effective—in particular, the sections on climate change and oil and gas prices—and his writing style is accessible even when discussing complex economic issues. The first half of the book could serve as required reading for an advanced high school civics class or an introductory level college course in political science, where students can fill in perceived gaps by researching or extrapolating their own examples of flawed public policy strategies. The centerpiece of the text consists of 10 guiding principles for a socially efficient government “acting in the best interests of all of its citizens” and a network of governmental agencies that would rely upon trained experts in a given field to propose and evaluate legislation. In fact, Coad faults unqualified legislators for the sad state of affairs in many democratic governments: gross misconceptions, politically expedient decisions, unproductive ideological battles and political gridlock. As Coad writes: “To produce efficient policy requires a high level of expertise, which is far, far beyond the knowledge and ability of any individual voter, politician or political party.” While an emphasis on competition, efficiency, flexibility, transparency and accountability among these largely autonomous agencies sounds appealing, the possibility that truly independent experts—with reduced conflicts of interest—could collect and interpret data with fewer biases isn’t entirely convincing. Nevertheless, Coad returns to more solid ground in the three final chapters on free market capitalism, the Great Recession and social responsibility before reiterating his 10 principles in the appendix.

Contains some wishful thinking, but many readers will appreciate this admirable effort in pursuit of a more perfect union.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1480012028

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A top-notch political biography.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A cradle-to-today portrait of a master politician who “shattered the ‘marble ceiling’ and blazed a new trail for women.”

Born in 1940 into an avidly political family, Nancy D'Alesandro absorbed a great deal about electoral politics from her father—a five-term Congressman and, later, three-term mayor of Baltimore—and from her mother, who supported her husband's campaigning in addition to raising seven children (tragically, one died at age 3). TIME national political correspondent and CNN political analyst Ball uses numerous memorable anecdotes to portray Pelosi's childhood, adolescence, early married life, and mothering of five children. Establishing a family base in San Francisco because of her husband's career in finance, Pelosi had no initial plans to enter politics. Ball explains clearly how that opinion evolved, with Pelosi entering the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987. In large portions of the narrative, the author focuses on Pelosi’s remarkable ability to overcome myriad stereotypes and outright misogyny to achieve ever more powerful positions in the House. Ball delves into Pelosi's leadership on a variety of controversial issues—e.g., the Iraq War (“to Pelosi and, by that point, most Americans, it seemed devastatingly obvious that the war had been a tragic misadventure”) and the 2008 financial meltdown—while also offering intriguing information about her professional relationships with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and dozens of other recognizable names. It is no surprise that Pelosi is a relentless workaholic, and Ball provides plenty of instructive examples. Other personal details—“she never drank alcohol, rarely had caffeine that wasn’t from her beloved dark chocolate and didn’t need more than a few hours’ sleep per night”—add human touches to a subject who is intensely private and never “indulges in public introspection.” Ultimately, this is a portrait of a persistent, fearless leader undaunted in the face of relentless opposition. Ball obviously admires Pelosi, but this is not a hagiography.

A top-notch political biography. (photo insert)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25286-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet