by Thomas Sowell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 8, 2015
While Sowell offers no pat solutions, his implied argument that cultural considerations must inform any serious attempt at...
A provocative analysis of the universal causes of economic success and failure.
Rather than stating a thesis at the outset, Hoover Institution senior fellow Sowell (Intellectuals and Race, 2013, etc.) starts by describing disparities in the prosperity of societies around the world throughout history. In plain language tailored for general readers, he traces these differences to variations in geography, culture, society, and politics, each of which he cogently describes and analyzes in some detail, concluding that it is senseless "to reasonably expect equal economic outcomes...when the things that go into creating those outcomes vary so greatly." If any factor is markedly determinative of economic progress, it is the accumulation of "human capital," including education, job skills, intact families, honesty, and a strong work ethic. Never one to be cowed by political correctness, the author bluntly maintains that some cultures have values like these, which are conducive to the creation of wealth over generations, and some do not. It gradually becomes clear that Sowell is mounting an assault on the redistributionist approach to alleviating poverty, both domestically and internationally. Indeed, he blames the burgeoning welfare state in the United States and Britain for regressions in education and economic standing among blacks and working-class whites over the past 50 years. The author raises many inconvenient facts that should trouble advocates of diversity and cultural relativism, and he effectively refutes progressives' excuses for why their approaches to eliminating poverty have too often produced government dependence and social breakdown. Ironically, given his argument from complexity, his conclusions too often suffer from an oversimplification of causes, failing to take sufficient account of factors that do not contribute to his occasionally tendentious politically conservative argument.While Sowell offers no pat solutions, his implied argument that cultural considerations must inform any serious attempt at improving the economic prospects of an underperforming nation or group merits serious consideration.
Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
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...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Share your opinion of this book
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
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!