Pangloss and Pollyanna tackle what Carlyle once called “the Dismal Science” in a polemic sure to attract dissent.

READ REVIEW

MYTHS OF RICH AND POOR

WHY WE'RE BETTER OFF THAN WE THINK

Cox, a Federal Reserve economist and adviser to the CATO institute, presents, with Dallas Morning News business reporter Alm, an aggressively rosy report on the nation’s economy.

I’m all right, Jack, and so are you, they say. Forget eroding living standards, foreign competition, rapacious CEOs, hedge fund crashes and endemic downsizing. Times, on the whole, have never been better, say the authors, and to prove it they offer a plenitude of charts, tables, statistics and figures. It is in the nature of capitalism that there are occasional disruptions, such as corporate downsizing, which they call “churning,” but this is still the best economic system, they claim: “Layoffs aren't a sign of failure, not for the economy, not even for most workers.” Layoffs take place beside job creation. That a midlevel manager fired from AT&T might, with luck, finally end up as a low-level associate at Wal-Mart is part of the churn, not part of “the hard numbers that define broad trends, averages, medians, per capita figures and rates of change.” Good times, the numbers say, are here. We have more money than ever. We spend more for stuff (like VCRs, health care and stealth bombers) and we spend more time at leisure. In the triumph of capitalism, minorities and women are doing better, too. As we change from a labor to a service economy, technology is improving life faster than ever. Don’t mess with success, the authors say. Just protect property rights, keep taxes low, and eschew more regulation. There are, though, some unasked questions. Yesterday Standard Oil had to be dismembered; would a merger of Exxon and Mobil be a good thing today? Will the next decades be like the past 20 years or is something fundamental changing? Never mind. Just look at the numbers.

Pangloss and Pollyanna tackle what Carlyle once called “the Dismal Science” in a polemic sure to attract dissent.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-465-04784-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

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

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

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

Did you like this book?

more