Well written, but sympathetic readers will find sounder footing elsewhere.




Another exhortation to dismantle the Federal Reserve System.

Opposition to central banking predates the nation’s founding. After financial panics, as in 2008, calls to repeal the 1913 Federal Reserve Act intensify. Shane (In God We Trust, 2007, etc.) offers a highly readable, plain-language explanation of our arcane monetary system but a rather breezily argued proposal to cure the national debt. He would replace the current system of lending new money into circulation through the issuance of corresponding public debt (Treasury bonds) with a debt-free system in which Congress creates money directly and the government spends it into circulation to pay its bills. Unlike former U.S. representative and presidential candidate Ron Paul, author of End the Fed, Shane does not favor restoring the gold standard as an external constraint on inflation, arguing instead that “the same trust, confidence, power and authority (fiat) that made the bond ‘good’ will make the bill ‘good’ as well.” He does not explain how Congress, locked in partisan wrangling with a 17 percent approval rating, will more effectively manage the money supply or serve the public interest, other than repeatedly intoning that it’s responsible to “We the People.” Like most Fed opponents, he criticizes its ownership structure and bankers’ inherent incentives to perpetuate debt, but he never mentions the statutory requirement that the Federal Reserve remit all profits above 6 percent to the U.S. Treasury (a record $88.9 billion in 2012). He lists numerous historical examples of direct money introduction but sidesteps how such systems have failed. Shane’s writing displays considerable acumen, but the book cites no sources and offers no bibliography. While formal credentials are not a prerequisite for writing about the subject (the cover describes him as a sailor, author, entrepreneur, business owner, trader and explorer), the gravity and scope of the changes he advocates beg for authority and intellectual context, rendering his argument more of a book-length op-ed than a solid advancement of the cause.

Well written, but sympathetic readers will find sounder footing elsewhere.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1449790554

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2018

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.


A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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