The future of the post, Gallagher argues in this readable, straightforward history, depends on citizens’ awareness of its...

HOW THE POST OFFICE CREATED AMERICA

A HISTORY

A history of the United States postal system, which George Washington believed would “tranquilize” the country’s restless citizenry.

In 1792, the new nation’s Congress passed the Post Office Act, giving citizens access to mail service. As Gallagher (New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change, 2011, etc.) makes clear in this well-researched history, the law did not make such service “a basic right, like freedom of speech or religion,” but merely stipulated that the government would meet citizens’ demands. Benjamin Rush and James Madison believed postal service essential to “ensure democracy…educate the people, and change society.” With newspapers dominating mail, keeping citizens informed was a major function. From the beginning, though, postal service was undermined by bad roads and high costs for postage. Independent delivery services arose, undercutting the government’s rates and providing quicker, more reliable service by its own couriers. As the nation expanded westward, these competitors vied to meet the needs of Californians, who demanded “a reputable, regularly scheduled, twice-weekly stagecoach service that would carry both mail and travelers.” The short-lived Pony Express, and later Wells and Fargo, offered delivery through treacherous territory. Gallagher cites a Pony Express ad: “Wanted: Young, skinny fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” During the Civil War, the South scrambled to set up its own postal service, including issuing stamps. One enslaved man “successfully mailed himself to freedom inside a wooden crate” that was delivered to Philadelphia abolitionists. Gallagher traces the way a burgeoning postal service created a market for pens, stationery, and other letter-writing accouterments. The United States Postal Service was created in 1970, transforming a government agency into a government-owned corporation. The author regrets Congress’ “dysfunctional relationship” with the USPS and suggests ways to modernize “the world’s most productive postal system.”

The future of the post, Gallagher argues in this readable, straightforward history, depends on citizens’ awareness of its history. For a somewhat livelier, personality-driven account of the USPS, see Devin Leonard’s Neither Snow nor Rain (2016).

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-500-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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