MixedThe AtlanticThe title hits the mark. The subtitle causes difficulties ... Despite his limited access to Thiel, Chafkin succeeds in shedding light on his subject’s formative experiences. But then he faces the hard choice: Which of the mature Thiel’s multifarious exploits deserve emphasis? ... At least as of now, showing that Thiel’s political machinations have made a difference is hard. His $1.3 million donation pales next to the tens of millions spent by the hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer on the Trumpian right during the 2016 cycle...Seeking nonetheless to build a case for Thiel’s political salience, Chafkin takes a fateful turn. He tortures the evidence to make it scream louder ... Chafkin’s exaggerations are doubly unfortunate. Thiel is indeed a financier of the Republican right, and perhaps he will emerge as a kingmaker with real power in some future political cycle...But drawing dubious connections does nothing to advance this point, and meanwhile Chafkin’s political emphasis obscures another part of his subject. Thiel’s approach to venture capital gets short shrift in his book. Yet venture investing is where Thiel’s contrarianism has yielded the clearest rewards—and where his impact on the world is arguably strongest ... Thiel’s contrarianism may be alarming in its reactionary Stanford Review guise. But an aversion to imitation and a willingness to commit capital to long-shot ideas are also the special forces that drive the most dynamic part of our economy.
MixedThe AtlanticAll through the book, the reader wonders how so talented and fortunate an author came to develop such a furious and bitter voice. What drives a dazzling academic—the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics, no less—to turn his New York Times column into an undiscriminating guillotine for conservative foes? Krugman is substantively correct on just about every topic he addresses. He writes amusingly and fluently. His combination of analytic brilliance and linguistic facility recalls Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes. But Krugman can also sound like a cross between a bloodthirsty Robespierre and a rebarbative GIF ... Krugman’s blunt approach has powerful attractions. For one thing, it delights his liberal readers, and may inspire some of them to advocate for better policy. For another, his willingness to ascribe motive may reveal the real drivers of political struggles ... But the Krugmanite approach also has drawbacks. By branding Republicans as \'bad people,\' he reduces the chances of swaying them. By sweeping all Republicans into the same baske, Krugman may obscure more of reality than he manages to expose ... If a large chunk of the 21st-century Republican Party is guilty of disparaging the truth, the flip side is that Krugman himself has lost confidence in the efficacy of the truth, at least in forging policy consensus. This is a dispiriting conclusion, especially for a truth-seeking professor ... Krugman is suffering from an especially public case of what’s come to be known as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Appalled by the Republican Party’s most bigoted leaders, he has allowed himself to believe that nearly all Republicans are corrupt and evil, and therefore that reasoned argument is futile ... If you accept that almost all conservatives are impervious to reason, you will celebrate Krugman’s writings for laying bare reality. But the evidence from the Pew surveys counsels more charity and caution. Most people cannot be pigeonholed as purely good or purely evil. Their motives are mixed, confused, and mutable ... For the sake of our democracy, a supremely gifted commentator should at least try to unite citizens around common understandings. Merely demonizing adversaries is the sort of thing that Trump does.
PositiveThe Atlantic...[a] fine book ... Appelbaum’s strength is that he generally acknowledges...complexities. He is happy to state at the outset that market-oriented reforms have lifted billions out of poverty, and to recognize that the deregulation that helped undo Berle-ism was not some kind of right-wing plot ... But Appelbaum makes it his mission to highlight instances where the market mind-set went awry. Inequality has grown to unacceptable extremes in highly developed economies ... Appelbaum wisely [doesn\'t] pretend there are easy solutions ... At the close of his book, Appelbaum presents a series of persuasive recommendations [.]
MixedThe Atlantic...[an] elegant history ... Lemann explores...the figure of Reid Hoffman, who founded the online professional network LinkedIn and is the third starring character in Lemann’s history of grand conceptions. It is an inspired piece of casting ... Lemann’s pluralism...prompts a deeper reservation. His vision frames politics as a zero-sum affair, dismissing as futile the quest for \'a broad, objectively determined meliorist plan that will help everyone.\' But this postmodernist pessimism goes too far. Some policies are better than others, and to give up on this truth is to throw away the sharpest sword in the fight against inequality.