Book Bits: 26 September 2020

The Wake-Up Call: Why the Pandemic Has Exposed the Weakness of the West,
and How to Fix It

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Review via The Independent
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen”. The situation must be serious when two of the West’s most prominent economic liberals begin a book by quoting Lenin.
Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait and The Economist’s Adrian Wooldridge do exactly that in their book-cum-pamphlet on how to relaunch Western liberal democracy after the pandemic.
‘Wake Up Call: Why the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the West – and how to fix it’ is one of two newly released books that prescribes how government should change for the benefit of us all.

The Vanishing American Dream: A Frank Look at the Economic Realities Facing Middle- and Lower-Income Americans
Edited by Gene Ludwig
Review via Kirkus Reviews
According to Ludwig, the editor of this volume and the organizer of the discussions at Yale Law School it documents, the lower and middle classes in the United States are desperately falling behind. They are the victims of an “economic tsunami” ravaging them for some time, the effects thrown into grimly sharp relief by the recent pandemic, of which they are “bearing the brunt of the burden.” The crisis is sometimes obscured by an overemphasis on standard economic indices, like the gross domestic product, which fails to capture the heart of the problem.

White House, Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency into a Business
Dan Alexander
Review via The New York Times
“Donald’s Trump real plan,” Alexander writes, was “to turn the presidency into a business.” For some free-market conservatives who keep touting the efficiencies of the private sector, that may have sounded like a dream come true, but what if the business turns out to be a bad one — recklessly managed, drained of cash, gutted of expertise?
The pandemic has provided an obvious test case, presenting the president with a virus that not only has killed 200,000 Americans so far but also continues to decimate his considerable stakes in the hospitality industry. Taking the pandemic seriously should have been a no-brainer for him, buoying his political capital and rescuing his net worth — yet he has refused to do it, pushing states to reopen early and holding an indoor rally just last week. As much as Trump says he loves money, “White House, Inc.” shows that he seems to have a hard time holding on to it.

Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation
David French
Review via Vox
French fears not just governmental dysfunction and paralysis, but full-on secession and even civil war. He constructs two in-depth scenarios — one quite violent — by which America fractures into separate red and blue nations following secession, and argues the only viable solution is a supercharged form of federalism in which both sides accept that in a nation this polarized, America can only hang together if it permits different regions to govern apart. But is that an answer to our problems, or simply a form of submission to them?

Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World
H. R. McMaster
Summary via publisher (HarperCollins)
Across multiple administrations since the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy has been misconceived, inconsistent, and poorly implemented. As a result, America and the free world have fallen behind rivals in power and influence. Meanwhile threats to security, freedom, and prosperity, such as nuclear proliferation and jihadist terrorism have grown. In Battlegrounds, H.R. McMaster describes efforts to reassess and fundamentally shift policies while he was National Security Advisor. And he provides a clear pathway forward to improve strategic competence and prevail in complex competitions against our adversaries.

The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy
Ellen Reese
Summary via publisher (Pluto Books)
With cutting-edge analyses, this book looks at the many dark facets of the corporation, including automation, surveillance, tech work, workers’ struggles, algorithmic challenges, the disruption of local democracy and much more. The Cost of Free Shipping shows how Amazon represents a fundamental shift in global capitalism that we should name, interrogate and be primed to resist.

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