MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewRoss’s view, that of the policy wonk, is from above, not the view of the people nor even the politicians. The best chapter (by far) is an immensely (and unusually) readable account of how tax havens and the competition between countries have allowed multinational companies, especially the big tech companies, to avoid paying taxes in any of the many jurisdictions in which they operate ... Reading this chapter is like watching a master jewel thief at work, except that this is not the movies, where the transfer is often from rich to poor ... much of the analysis has an innocence that while sometimes charming, is more often incoherent or infuriating ... I’m all for banning buybacks—or taxing them—but exactly how this will fight climate change, or reduce the need for safety nets, is never clarified ... he surely owes us some explanation of what policies might bring that about, what sort of practical coalitions might support them and just how to stop the plundering of the dispossessed[.]
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewOsnos compellingly describes life in three places that represent the pre-spark wildland ... Some will find Osnos’s picture too dark, too one-sided. American capitalism still permits many to flourish, and it supplies us with an immense range of goods and services. Yet it is true that Washington is largely hobbled by the needs of campaign finance and the clamor of lobbyists.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewGregg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than It Looks is a tour of how much better life is today — we live longer, we are richer, we are less subject to violence, we are more democratic — as well as a guide to dealing with the threats that might bring us down. He argues that fixes are available and not too hard to attain. I believe that this is more than half right, but ... There is no contradiction between having the best possible life and living on the edge of a precipice ... I found myself frustrated with It’s Better Than It Looks because Easterbrook is such an unreliable witness. Much of what he says is right, but much is not, or is wishful thinking, or sounds wildly optimistic, but does not seem to be documented and so is uncheckable. In the end, he weakens his case. If we are to persuade the skeptics that we really are better off than ever, all the facts have got to be right and demonstrably so ... Easterbrook, the author of several books, often airbrushes or smooths over history; temporary reversals are missed or their consequences minimized. This trivializes the argument that the future will be even better than the present. The past is indeed a tale of progress, but it is not a tale of continuous progress, and some of the reversals, though temporary, have been catastrophic ... progress has been interrupted by catastrophes, and we cannot soothe ourselves with the thought that the catastrophes will be temporary, even if we can persuade ourselves that temporary bumps cannot cause permanent derailment.
RaveThe New York TimesIn his fine book, both history and call to arms, Ganesh Sitaraman argues that the contemporary explosion of inequality will destroy the American Constitution, which is and was premised on the existence of a large and thriving middle class. He has done us all a great service, taking an issue of overwhelming public importance, delving into its history, helping understand how our forebears handled it and building a platform to think about it today.