Students of the dismal science will enjoy this well-written account of a clash of titans.

SAMUELSON FRIEDMAN

THE BATTLE OVER THE FREE MARKET

Broad-ranging dual biography of two diametrically opposed economists and their influence on current theory.

The author of a previous pairing of the intellectual forebears of his present subjects—John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek—Wapshott recounts the rise to prominence of Paul Samuelson (1915-2009) and his ideological counterpart, Milton Friedman (1912-2006). Both grew up under similar circumstances, the worldly children of Jewish immigrants, and both arrived at a nearly opposite view of economics, particularly as an instrument of politics. The two were well aware of each other when Newsweek hired both to write an alternating column on economics. Samuelson originally declined, having earned a substantial income from his textbook on economics, which remained a standard into the 1970s. Finally, he relented after being paid the modern equivalent of $98,600 for a mere 17 pieces. “Finding an articulate, young economist who would counter Samuelson’s viewpoint would not be easy,” writes Wapshott, but finally Newsweek brought Friedman on board. By then, Friedman had already laid out the bare bones of modern libertarianism, which holds that the free market regulates itself and government has little if any role in it, or indeed in daily life. Samuelson, meanwhile, was an exponent of the quantitative easing and other interventions that Keynes had brought to bear on the Depression. The two remained grudgingly admiring rivals for five decades. Though Samuelson considered Keynes the greatest economist in history, alongside Adam Smith and Léon Walras, Friedman remained convinced that “all attempts to temper the market, however well intended…were doomed because they hampered the efficient operation of capitalism, which, when left to its own devices, was sure to maximize the benefits to society.” Though Friedman’s libertarianism remains influential, particularly among conservatives, it is not unalloyed: He favored legalizing drugs and diminishing the military, for instance. Samuelson’s view was tested and found largely correct, though, with the Great Recession of 2008, when, as a British newspaper put it, “it was Samuelson’s prescriptions, rather than Friedman’s, that carried the day.”

Students of the dismal science will enjoy this well-written account of a clash of titans.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-28518-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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