Book Bits: 17 September 2022

Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet
Marian L. Tupy and Gale L. Pooley
Essay by author (Tupy) via The Spectator
By our count, abundance has been doubling every 20 years or so. So, a 60-year-old Westerner has seen his standard of living rise from one to two, from two to four, and from four to 8 in his lifetime. Too slow, you say? That’s the modern mind speaking. Prior to the mid-18th century, life remained pretty much the same for millennia and no one thought that unusual. Generations of people lived and died without seeing or experiencing even the tiniest of improvements in their lives. What’s more, the scope for future improvements is immense.

Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It
Jon Clifton
Excerpt via Gallup
If the increase in negative emotions is causing people to express their frustration in the streets, are they also expressing it at the ballot box?
Behavioral scientist George Ward thinks so. In an unpublished paper, he reviewed Gallup’s negative emotions data from Europe to see if they had any relationship to populist attitudes and the success of populist parties. He defined “populist attitudes” by looking at people’s opinions toward their government, the media, immigrants, and leaving the European Union (EU).
Ward found that “Negative [emotions] — both in the form of general sentiment and discrete emotions — [are] predictive of populist beliefs and voting.”

Understandable Economics: Because Understanding Our Economy Is Easier Than You Think and More Important Than You Know
Howard Yaruss
Summary via publisher (Prometheus/Rowman & Littlefield)
Incomes are stagnating, middle-class jobs are disappearing, economic growth is slowing, and the meager gains are mostly going to those who are already wealthy. More Americans than ever are frustrated by the direction in which we are headed. Understandable Economics aims to replace this frustration with a practical understanding of our economy and empower readers to identify and advocate for a better approach to the problems we face. In this entertaining and informative guide, author Howard Yaruss breaks down our economic system in a straightforward way, avoiding jargon, formulas, graphs, and other technical material so common in books on this subject. Instead, he creates a compelling and comprehensive picture of our economy using accessible analogies, real-world observations, and entertaining anecdotes.

The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate
Phil Gramm, et al.
Review via Publishers Weekly
Former U.S. senator Gramm and economists Ekelund (coauthor, The Economics of Art) and Early claim in this wonky yet misleading study that, contrary to popular belief, income inequality in America is declining, not rising. The root of that faulty perception, they argue, lies in the U.S. Census Bureau’s policy of not counting food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and many other kinds of “transfer payments” as income, and in not deducting taxes paid from household incomes. If those numbers were adjusted, the authors claim, income disparity would appear one-fourth as large as it currently does.

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