PanThe New York Times Book ReviewThere will never be one billion Americans. Matthew Yglesias, the author of One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger, thinks it would be great if America were that populous ... Why, then, write a book about an impossible policy goal that few people want? The answer, in this case, seems to be that the \'one billion Americans\' conceit is a kind of holdall into which Yglesias, a co-founder of Vox and longtime economics journalist, can throw an otherwise random assortment of his favorite center-left policy prescriptions ... This book, then, often feels as though it’s making the weakest possible argument for otherwise good ideas ... Many economics books devote themselves to cataloging the world’s ills, and then end with a curiously short “solutions” chapter that doesn’t really solve most of the problems in the book. One Billion Americans is a novel twist on this model. It starts with one curiously short and unconvincing chapter on the problem of having less than one billion Americans, and then dives into a long catalog of solutions. Most of them are very good ideas. But none of them solve the problem.
MixedSlateIn such a world, with tens of trillions of dollars of wealth, extreme poverty is a choice, not an inevitability. That’s the compelling and compassionate heart of Annie Lowrey’s new book, Give People Money ... Lowrey doesn’t just document the problem; she also offers a simple and effective solution. If you take very poor people and give them money, they stop being very poor pretty much by definition. They also, it turns out, become healthier, work more, and generally become vastly more productive members of society ... Lowrey seems to know there are no easy fixes, but she forges ahead anyway ... Lowrey is convincing on the need to eradicate poverty, and equally convincing that cash transfers can often be one of the best ways of doing so. But she fails to mirror her passionate rallying cry on the subject of poverty reduction with an equally passionate argument for U.B.I. in particular ... she ultimately doesn’t come close to demonstrating that a universal basic income would be the best way to target cash at the poor ... Lowrey ends up falling uncomfortably between the two stools. Her book is an excellent guide to the issues surrounding a U.B.I. But it won’t cause many people to start advocating for one.