An intriguing report on unusual objectives pursued through outreach and debate.

CARING ECONOMICS

CONVERSATIONS ON ALTRUISM AND COMPASSION, BETWEEN SCIENTISTS, ECONOMISTS, AND THE DALAI LAMA

Proceedings from the 2010 Mind & Life Institute conference, featuring dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama and two collaborators founded the Mind & Life Institute to create “collaboration between modern sciences, the world's living contemplative traditions, philosophy, humanities and social sciences.” The conference brought scientists, economists and philosophers together with the Dalai Lama to discuss how best Western science and humanities might work with Eastern philosophies like Buddhism to organize new secular ethics based on altruism and compassion. Participants included experimental social psychologist Donald Batson, editor Singer, the director of the Department of Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, and Lord Richard Layard, the founding director of the Center for Economic Performance, among others. The Dalai Lama, who participated in all of the sessions of the two-day conference, made clear his view “that the entirety of humanity needs altruism or empathy, not necessarily as part of their religious faith but to reduce certain problems we are facing today due to their absence.” The proceedings were organized into three sections: scientific and related research (Singer's work on current neuroscience and empathy, and psychiatrist Richard Davidson's research into compassion); Buddhist and economic perspectives on compassion (Layard's research into the economics of happiness); and examples of altruism in practical work (former Credit Suisse executive Arthur Vayloyan’s discussion of microfinance and how smart investments can generate social, environmental and financial profits at the same time). The Dalai Lama contributed his thoughts on the need for “more research…on how to introduce secular ethics into the modern educational system,” as well as on the research reported. He argues that science and secular ethics provide a more universal basis than even all major religions acting together could.

An intriguing report on unusual objectives pursued through outreach and debate.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06412-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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