An about-face proposal for a more resilient economy, where the past isn’t just prologue, it’s a prescription for success.

MOVING BACK TO OUR ECONOMIC FUTURE

BOTTOMS-UP TO PROSPERITY

Public policy maven looks to resurrect what he believes is a time-tested strategy for building a prosperous America.

Gregory fearlessly attacks two vaunted theories: Laissez-Faire and Keynesian economics. Both, he argues, failed as fiscal policies and cannot ensure a lasting recovery. The “trickle-down” prosperity promised since the 1980s never happened, as a greater share of national income became concentrated among top earners. Conversely, Keynesian principles were never appropriately implemented; instead politicians used them as an excuse to get any type of funding approved. A wonkish intellectual who worked for the Michigan Legislature, Gregory is blunt in his diagnosis and even more certain of the cure. He advocates “Investment Budgeting” – government-sponsored infrastructure projects aimed at spurring economic growth. If history provides Gregory ammunition against current policy, it’s also where he finds evidence that strategic infrastructure investment works. Canals, railroads and Interstate highways are hailed as projects that created jobs in the short-run but also fueled future expansion as businesses took advantage of their benefits. To bolster his case for Investment Budgeting, the author paints a bleak picture of America in a “Silent Depression,” a 40-year downward spiral marked by growing income inequality and a shrinking middle class. Much of the blame is placed on the usual suspects: complacent policymakers and a self-interested business lobby. Skepticism is fair game in policy discussions, so the book will get plenty of head-shaking from those who believe Uncle Sam does more harm than good. Its populist overtones, however, will resonate with the disaffected. The most controversial chapter is “Blacks and the Excess Labor Force,” which asserts that the war on crime and drugs unfairly targets the “Black underclass.” The chapter doesn’t synergize with the rest of the text, but it raises questions about the efficacy of the U.S. prison system. Gregory writes with the unique perspective of having once served time himself. While he tries to convince readers of hidden political agendas, Gregory doesn’t push class warfare. He envisions “bottoms-up” growth by putting more people to work.

An about-face proposal for a more resilient economy, where the past isn’t just prologue, it’s a prescription for success.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461008156

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

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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

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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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