Sharp insider insights into a global dilemma.

THE NAKED DON'T FEAR THE WATER

AN UNDERGROUND JOURNEY WITH AFGHAN REFUGEES

A Canadian journalist’s riveting account of his travels with a friend attempting to flee from Afghanistan to Europe.

In 2015, Aikins, a winner of the George Polk Award, had been covering the war in Afghanistan for seven years. He spent much of that time with a friend he calls Omar (many names have been changed for safety purposes), who frequently served as his translator. By this point, Omar and the rest of his family had decided to try to leave despite the fact that the borders had been closed. Aikins, who looks “uncannily Afghan: almond eyes, black hair, wiry beard,” decided to accompany Omar, paying his way and reporting on the refugee underground, disguising himself as an Afghan migrant and leaving his passport with friends. What sounded at first like a fairly straightforward plan soon fell apart, as Omar delayed again and again, hoping to arrange a marriage with a young woman, or lost his nerve at crucial moments. Often separated, the two ended up together first in Turkey, then in an internment camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, and then in a “squat” in Athens, where they lived with “a mix of activists and migrants.” Aikins is meticulously aware of the difference in the level of danger the two faced. Though he sometimes thought, “What kind of protagonist was he?” as Omar spent weeks mostly lying in bed staring at Facebook, he also acknowledges that “we both knew I could make a phone call to get my passport back and leave, any time I wanted.” Finely, if sometimes bewilderingly, detailed, the book shines a humane spotlight on many of the people the author met along the way as well as on the role chance played in their fates, with particularly moving chapters on life within the Greek refugee camp. The narrative is scrupulous and often suspenseful.

Sharp insider insights into a global dilemma.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-305858-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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