A NATION OF DEADBEATS

AN UNCOMMON HISTORY OF AMERICA'S FINANCIAL DISASTERS

A revisionist history of financial collapses in the United States radiating to other parts of the globe, with implications for what really caused the ongoing economic meltdown.

Nelson (Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry: the Untold Story of an American Legend, 2006, etc.) is a professional historian with a nonestablishment focus. The major problem with traditional historic accounts is that they diminish the role of ordinary citizens—i.e., debtors—while overplaying the roles of gigantic banking institutions. Though the economic declines documented here occurred long before the current mess, the author makes the case that each of those declines (in 1792, 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1929) share common factors and can teach important lessons for contemporary policymakers. Systemic declines would probably never occur if not for the huge numbers of individual consumers wanting material goods, spending beyond the realm of common sense and then defaulting on promised payments. What happens next rarely stops at national borders, with panics crossing oceans and continents throughout the international economy. Additional fallout includes the formation of new political parties or the rejuvenation of existing but moribund parties. One compelling example, ably delineated by Nelson, is the rise of Andrew Jackson to the presidency due to fallout from a financial disaster. This revisionist account is eminently readable, in large part because Nelson offers flesh-and-blood examples rather than relying on abstractions. He opens the book with the story of his father’s career as a repo man. In that job, he dealt with deadbeat consumers every working day, gaining an acute understanding of how widespread financial collapses begin at the community level. A fascinating historical narrative, even if Nelson occasionally confuses cause and effect with correlation or even coincidence in some of his case studies.   

 

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-27269-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more