Deserves wide attention in our current political landscape.

BREAK 'EM UP

RECOVERING OUR FREEDOM FROM BIG AG, BIG TECH, AND BIG MONEY

A forceful argument about the stealthy resurgence of monopoly within the global economy.

Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, redirects progressive attention toward this easily overlooked issue. “Wall Street,” she writes, “has been a driving force behind the gutting of antitrust laws.” The purported democratic norms of the tech economy have clouded such predatory business practices in many aspects of life, from the effect of Uber on drivers’ livelihoods, to less obvious but chilling examples—e.g., how poultry monopolies have turned farmers into indentured servants. “Uber successfully sold the idea that, if we wanted to use our phones to get a taxi, we needed to destroy 80 years of anti-monopoly laws,” writes Teachout. Furthermore, the “chickenization” model is creeping into many industries, especially restaurant delivery: “Surveillance and power go hand in hand, each reinforcing the other.” Race and class inform many of these hidden narratives: In one chapter, the author tracks how arbitration has become an alternate justice system serving the ultrawealthy. She also discusses the “body snatcher” effect of corporate super PACs on the political system: “corporate institutions replacing democratic institutions by burrowing inside them and using their language and forms.” Similarly, the journalism industry has been gutted by greedy corporate raiders and their continued search for quarterly profit increases. Regarding the secretive CEOs of social media, Teachout writes, “it is crucial that we understand [Mark] Zuckerberg, and monopolists like him, as seekers of political power, for it is only through political action that they can be tamed.” Wide-ranging, well-organized chapters are full of unsettling tidbits, such as Amazon’s courting of the surveillance state via commercial data-sharing. Finally, the author looks back at the original populist antitrust movement, but she also makes the salient point that “we shouldn’t require people to boycott essential communications infrastructure like Facebook and Google in order to demand that they be broken up.” Teachout confidently wields energetic, urgent prose and stark research, adeptly blending subtopics including law and technology.

Deserves wide attention in our current political landscape.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20089-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: All Points/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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