Readers of like-minded political bent will find Piketty’s arguments powerful, if a touch arid.

TIME FOR SOCIALISM

DISPATCHES FROM A WORLD ON FIRE, 2016-2021

The noted French economist makes the case for overhauling the global economy to provide greater equality.

“In a large-scale federal community, bound by agreements on the free movement of goods, people, and capital, it is logical to entrust a central government with the key role for the taxes, ensuring the greatest redistribution.” So writes Piketty in a statement guaranteed to induce howling fits in strict libertarians. Advocating a technocratic, even bureaucratic socialism in this collection of columns from Le Monde, the author builds a careful case. The world hasn’t become poorer, writes Piketty, but the world’s governments have, thanks to a widespread program of corporate tax breaks and other economic concessions to people who do not need them. This immiseration of government has significant effects, one of the most visible of which is an impoverishment of the educational system. Inequality results from the fact that private wealth has been rising far faster than public wealth has been declining. “There is absolutely no sense in making tax gifts to groups who are old and wealthy and have already done very well in recent decades,” Piketty argues sensibly. He urges governments to impose both hefty estate taxes and far higher graduated income taxes, and he also suggests that at the age of 25, young people be given outright grants of $150,000 or so to help lift them up in the marketplace and encourage innovation and economic diversity. With such a boost, it would be possible for those young people to start their own businesses and take risks instead of settling in desperation for whatever job comes along. Piketty’s arguments are piecemeal and sometimes written as if for fellow economists, with his proposed reforms coming one after another. Readers might have found it more useful had he used his columns as a mine for a more coherent argument rather than reprinting. Still, each page offers an interesting provocation.

Readers of like-minded political bent will find Piketty’s arguments powerful, if a touch arid.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-300-25966-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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