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October 23, 2007

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robertdfeinman

Very funny, but there was no need for a dialog. The entire rightward slant of the Book Review is due to one man, the editor: Sam Tanenhaus. His right wing credentials are so strong that one has to wonder about the judgment of the Times' management.

It is clever to have a conservative review a liberal book and vice versa. This makes for lively reviews, but his technique is to use conservatives to review liberals and conservatives to review conservatives. Once in awhile he throws in a moderate for "balance".

Here's a recent blog thread discussing his performance:
http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2007/oct/10/the_cloud_over_sams_book_club

Can a man who wrote a book on Whittaker Chambers and a new one called "McCarthyism in America" be considered impartial?

Stan

Not to dispute the poor quality of the review, but is David M Kennedy that conservative? He seems to embrace most of Krugman's economic analysis, just not his history. Also, since when are Robert Reich and Robert Frank considreed conservative?
Are people piling on Kennedy in the same way that they piled on Stiglitz, with his "Klein is not an economist, so we shouldn't hold her to the same standard [you mean logic and empirical rigor]"?
Maybe Arnold Kling should do all the reviews :)
http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/10/miracles-do-hap.html

JMK

Is Paul Krugman's book worth reading?

Student

How in the world are Kennedy or Frank conservatives? And calling the New York Times Book Review conservative?...wow.

N Chung

Stan:
yes. Krugman is known for distorting facts. But the book is very interesting. It's American history with interludes of economic theory embedded.

His overall argument, I believe, is quite sound.

paine

"Krugman is known for distorting facts"

not by intention my friend

wjd123

"If our social ills are indeed rooted in increased competition, our only recourse, Reich argues, is to change the rules. Denouncing greed is simply wasted energy. If we want less inequality, we must make taxes more progressive. If we want cleaner air and water, we must adopt more stringent environmental laws....

".... Indeed, the main thrust of Reich’s argument is right on target. Those who seize their opportunities in highly competitive environments tend to survive and prosper. “To confuse greed with opportunity,” he writes, “is to confound desire with availability.”

"It’s often useful to get angry when things aren’t going well. But moral outrage is counterproductive unless directed at the right targets. By focusing our attention on those who continue to block effective campaign finance reform, Reich shows that he can spot a worthy target when he sees one."--Quotes from Robert Frank's review of Reich book.

I think Reich misses the target. He recognizes that we are living in a much more competitive world which is driving business in the name of survival to ignore social interest. His solution is to hem business in on all sides with rules and regulations so it can't ignore those social interest that don't always coincide with its interests. As much as I like this solution it nevertheless makes business less competitive and less likely to survive in a competitive world. How is "focusing our attention on those who continue to block effective campaign finance reform" the right target for our moral outrage? And if he doesn't want business to kill again socially he has to address the problem of competition to keep things real for business. In a global economy he is putting business into a situation where our economic morality is another businesses opportunity.

It also looks as though Franks, the reviewer, did a butinsky that confuses Reich position. Reich doesn't say that we shouldn't be outraged at the multimillion dollar salaries of those at the top but that we are wasting our moral outrage on the wrong target. (I disagree with this for reasons of social psychology, but I'll save it for another day.) Frank seems to be making an additional argument that the multimillion dollar salaries are deserved. Frank's position mitigates the working of lust and avarice in a society, at least it would if it were convincing. For instance, why is warmth, charm and the ability to be funny so rare in a candidate for the job of university president? And what does being a research cardiologist and playing jazz have to do with the job

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wjd123

I don't like the review of Reich's book. First it tells us that our moral outrage in wasted if we don't understand what is going on and then it makes you keep guessing if its talking about internationalism or nationalism. And the reviewer doesn't even mention the problem. Here is an example:

"Things changed when the Internet and other new communications and transportation technologies enabled the economy’s most able producers to extend their reach. Many established firms were swept away.

"At about the same time, financial deregulation increased the influence of capital markets on corporate behavior. Wall Street’s message to chief executives was “Slash your payrolls or we’ll buy your company and hire someone who will.”

If the focus here is on international finance it's a phenomenon that grew without much regulation at all. If the focus is on national capital markets it doesn't make much sense when juxtaposed with the first paragraph about changes that heightened international competition. I'm left looking for an example of the kind of deregulation that is being talked about in order to get some clarity. Instead I get an ultimatum for Wall Street.

When the review isn't conflating nationalism and internationalism, it's begging the question of international competition. This looks to be a problem with Reich's books as much as Frank's review.

Allowing an economist to review the book of another economist isn't always a stroke of genius.

TGGP

Alex Tabarrok claimed David M. Kennedy was a liberal. At Brad De Long's blog there were claims for both sides. Does anyone actually know what he is?

Qingdao

after reading about 10 almost identical, gleeful blogs pounding the hapless David Kennedy, I was clicking over to D. Rodrik thinking: at least he doesn't pass on the juicy gossip and ........(sigh)

Winston

Speaking of books, is there any chance you'd be willing to send me a free copy of your latest one? I'm a 17-year-old student who lives below Canada's low income cut-off line, and I plan to do a joint major in economics and mathematics at the University of Toronto. After studying a first-year principles text, reading a book on twentieth-century economic history, and following your blog for a few months, I'd like to learn more about the field of development economics.

sainlob

"juicy gossip"
or rather naughty? Dani is simply trying to expose the intentions of the nytbr editors, I hope, since Krugman's arguments are sound and nothing but so.

sainlob

"juicy gossip"
or rather naughty? Dani is simply trying to expose the intentions of the nytbr editors, I hope, since Krugman's arguments are sound and nothing but so.

Gabriel

I don't understand why a historian can't review a book from a economist??? What is the problem?!

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