Paul Krugman’s “Arguing With Zombies: Economics, Politics, and the Fight for a Better Future” is a pertinent analyses of urgent, controversial problems.
Krugman, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, gathers more than 90 articles, most from his New York Times columns, lucidly explaining often confounding economic issues. Prefacing each of 18 sections with a cogent overview, the author takes on topics that include Social Security, health care, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath (essays that comprise more than a third of the book), the myths of austerity, Europe’s economic problems, tax cuts, trade wars, inequality, climate change, and, not least, the damage being inflicted by Donald Trump and his enablers. Many of the pieces are hard-hitting arguments against zombie ideas, “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Zombie ideas, Krugman asserts, are put forth by “influential people” who “move in circles in which repeating” such ideas “is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity.” Alternatively, ideas such as climate change denial, which persist despite prolific evidence, are “better described as cockroach ideas—false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.” There are plenty of villains in Krugman’s crosshairs: the “anti-labor” extremist Brett Kavanaugh, “flimflam man” Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and his “fraudulent march to war,” and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. Many essays focus on the current president. “It’s not just that Trump has assembled an administration of the worst and dimmest,” writes the author. “The truth is that the modern GOP doesn’t want to hear from serious economists, whatever their politics. It prefers charlatans and cranks, who are its kind of people.” Krugman is a serious economist who detailed his intellectual focus and style in a 1993 essay, “How I Work.” He cites four rules that guide his research: listen to intelligent views; question the question; “dare to be silly”; and “simplify, simplify.” All serve him — and his readers — admirably.
Shrewd, witty, informed essays that are much needed in our anti-intellectual age.
“Untamed” offers more life reflections from Glennon Doyle, a bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.
In her third book, Doyle begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections — “Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom” — the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.
Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.