Book Bits: Recent Winter Releases

● The New Great Depression: Winners and Losers in a Post-Pandemic World
James Rickards
Quote by author via Global Finance
“I did not live through the Great Depression, but my parents did and they were affected for life,” says James Rickards, author of The New Great Depression: Winners and Losers in a Post Pandemic World. “This will be very similar.” A 2020 study published by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco looked at 650 years of pandemics and found that monetary policy, economic growth and other policies do not normalize for 30 to 40 years. “If 2019 is your base year to define normal,” Rickards says, “well, we’ll never see normal again. Ever.”


● Freedom From the Market: America’s Fight to Liberate Itself from the Grip of the Invisible Hand
Mike Konczal
Review via Publishers Weekly
Roosevelt Institute director Konczal (coauthor, Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy) argues that “true freedom requires keeping us free from the market” in this persuasive and methodical account. Countering “glib libertarian fantasies” of American history, Konczal details cases where the federal government suppressed the free market for the benefit of society, including the 1862 Homestead Act, which allowed settlers to claim up to 160 acres of public land in the West. He also champions the work of FDR’s secretary of labor, Frances Perkins, who described unemployment benefits and Social Security as “another great step in that liberation of humanity,” and explores how President Lyndon Johnson used Medicare funding to force desegregation in Southern hospitals. According to Konczal, the project of ensuring “a free, broadly accessible system of higher education” in the U.S. was undermined in the 1960s and ’70s by debt crises and conservative politicians battling student protestors.

● The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease
Charles Kenny
Review via Nature
An economist at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, Charles Kenny (The Plague Cycle) takes [a long-term view of infectious diseases]. His starting point is a discussion of prehistoric humans’ susceptibility to disease, focusing on 2,500 years of civilization’s interaction with infections, especially in today’s urban societies. This is big-picture medical history. It takes in pestilence including plagues, malaria, smallpox and polio. It snapshots antibiotics and vaccines, and the problems of drug development, anti-vaccine campaigners and drug resistance. And he looks at social and medical reform, including sanitation, nutrition and the development of professional medical science and public-health systems. This all-encompassing view of humanity’s battles against disease provides a useful background to the more-specialized COVID-19 volumes.

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