by Thomas E. Patterson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 18, 2002
Provocative if depressing, and required reading for the public-policy–minded.
Civic-minded Americans are getting to be as rare as passenger pigeons, writes Harvard political scientist Patterson—and the system likes it just fine.
“The juice has been squeezed out of elections,” declares Patterson (Out of Order, 1993) in this engaging study of modern politics, an outgrowth of the Pew Charitable Trusts–sponsored Vanishing Voter Project, which conducted interviews with some 90,000 eligible voters during and after the 2000 presidential election. Weary and cynical, Americans no longer bother to study up on candidates and issues, no longer tune in to watch debates and conventions, can scarcely be bothered to vote—though, he adds, in the wake of the 2000 fiasco, many wish they had. In the Gore-Bush contest, less than half of the electorate cast a vote. Had all eligible voters turned out, Patterson observes, “the Democrats would have captured the presidency and both houses of Congress.” The present active electorate represents a victory for the status quo: those who do vote are proportionally older and wealthier than the statistically average American, and they tend to have stronger and more conservative opinions on matters such as gun control, labor rights, and abortion; the lower classes, conversely, are scarcely present in modern elections and turn out in numbers far lower than in any other industrial democracy (and, Patterson notes, on a par with India). Patterson attributes this sweeping decline in citizen involvement to many causes, among them the disgraceful quality of the contemporary media and the candidates alike. He also suggests that the system does not serve average citizens well, noting that after September 11, there was no shortage of desire on the part of citizens to do their civic duty—but few outlets for them to do so, apart from purely symbolic gestures such as flying flags. By way of remedy, he suggests a number of measures designed to remove at least some of the tedium of the current electoral process, including a reformed primary system and a shorter campaign cycle.Provocative if depressing, and required reading for the public-policy–minded.
Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2002
Page Count: 256
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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