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February 2014

In Monthly Book Selection on December 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

simpler

by Cass R. Sunstein

From the publisher:

Simpler government arrived four years ago. It helped put money in your pocket. It saved hours of your time. It improved your children’s diet, lengthened your life span, and benefited businesses large and small. It did so by issuing fewer regulations, by insisting on smarter regulations, and by eliminating or improving old regulations. Cass R. Sunstein, as administrator of the most powerful White House office you’ve never heard of, oversaw it and explains how it works, why government will never be the same again (thank goodness), and what must happen in the future.

Cutting-edge research in behavioral economics has influenced business and politics. Long at the forefront of that research, Sunstein, for three years President Obama’s “regulatory czar” heading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, oversaw a far-reaching restructuring of America’s regulatory state. In this highly anticipated book, Sunstein pulls back the curtain to show what was done, why Americans are better off as a result, and what the future has in store.

The evidence is all around you, and more is coming soon. Simplified mortgages and student loan applications. Scorecards for colleges and universities. Improved labeling of food and energy-efficient appliances and cars. Calories printed on chain restaurant menus. Healthier food in public schools. Backed by historic executive orders ensuring transparency and accountability, simpler government can be found in new initiatives that save money and time, improve health, and lengthen lives.Simpler: The Future of Government will transform what you think government can and should accomplish.

March 2014

In Monthly Book Selection on December 15, 2013 at 11:14 am

The Smartest Kids Book

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy.

What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers?

In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.

A journalistic tour de force, The Smartest Kids in the World is a book about building resilience in a new world—as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.

April 2014

In Monthly Book Selection on December 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

Why Nations Fail

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.

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