MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe problem is that the length of Capital and Ideology seems, at least to me, to reflect in part a lack of focus ... Piketty provides what amounts to a history of the world viewed through the lens of inequality ... while there is a definite Francocentric feel to Capital and Ideology, for me, at least, the vast amount of ground it covers raises a couple of awkward questions ... The first is whether Piketty is a reliable guide to such a large territory. His book combines history, sociology, political analysis and economic data for dozens of societies. Is he really enough of a polymath to pull that off? ... The second question is whether the accumulation of cases actually strengthens Piketty’s core analysis. It wasn’t clear to me that it does. To be honest, at a certain point I felt a sense of dread each time another society entered the picture ... The bottom line: I really wanted to like Capital and Ideology, but have to acknowledge that it’s something of a letdown. There are interesting ideas and analyses scattered through the book, but they get lost in the sheer volume of dubiously related material. In the end, I’m not even sure what the book’s message is. That can’t be a good thing.
Thomas Piketty, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer
RaveThe New York TimesCapital in the Twenty-First Century, the new book by the French economist Thomas Piketty, is a bona fide phenomenon. Other books on economics have been best sellers, but Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t ... what’s really new about Capital is the way it demolishes that most cherished of conservative myths, the insistence that we’re living in a meritocracy in which great wealth is earned and deserved ... Still, it has been amazing to watch conservatives, one after another, denounce Mr. Piketty as a Marxist. Even Mr. Pethokoukis, who is more sophisticated than the rest, calls Capital a work of \'soft Marxism,\' which only makes sense if the mere mention of unequal wealth makes you a Marxist ... Money still talks ... Still, ideas matter too, shaping both how we talk about society and, eventually, what we do. And the Piketty panic shows that the right has run out of ideas.
Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner, Henry M. Paulson Jr.
PositiveThe New York TimesFirefighting is a brief account of [a] crucial moment by three of the most important actors ... What Bernanke et al. — I’m going to call them BGP for short — have given us...is a primer on why the crisis was possible (and why, even so, almost nobody saw it coming); a ticktock on how the crisis and the financial rescue unfolded; and a very scary warning about the future. Much of what BGP have to say here is familiar to economists, but perhaps less so to the general public ... It’s an intricate story, one whose details probably seem a lot more interesting to those who were involved than they will to a broader readership. And I don’t think there are any shocking new revelations ... But should we be worried about another crisis? Yes, the authors say, in a final chapter that is downright scary ... In other words, we seem to have learned the wrong lessons from our brush with disaster. As a result, when the next crisis comes, it’s likely to play out even worse than the last one. Isn’t that a happy thought?
PositiveThe New York TimesYes, what Warren is preaching sounds very much like the second coming of the New Deal — as she herself acknowledges...But: Warren brings an edge to her advocacy that many Democrats have shied away from, at least until recently. Even the Obama administration, while doing much more to fight inequality than many realize, balked at making inequality reduction an explicit goal ... This Fight Is Our Fight is a smart, tough-minded book. But is it an effective blueprint for progressive political revival? The evidence suggests that it’s incomplete ... To her credit, Warren repeatedly acknowledges the political importance of prejudice; she’s not one of those people who insist, as Bernie Sanders sometimes seems to, that bigotry won’t be a political factor if only your economic program is progressive enough. But she doesn’t offer any good answers. And let’s be honest: Republicans have gone after Warren herself, in a way they haven’t gone after Sanders, in part because of her gender. But maybe it’s a matter of time, and what Democrats need right now is a reason to keep fighting. And that’s something Warren’s muscular, unapologetic book definitely offers. It’s an important contribution, even if it isn’t the last word.