March 4, 2016

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives
Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir

Only Half of the Story – David Brooks is the Liberals’ Favorite Conservative. In part, that’s because he writes about human development and behavior. It’s also because he is a rare thoughtful conservative in a time when the prevailing conservative orthodoxy abandons facts, disdains science and scorns reflection. How lonely he must feel. But Brooks’ writing often leads to unpalatable conclusions, no matter how pleasantly presented, because he often leaves out half of the story. Mullainathan and Shafir do the same in “Scarcity,” a book I’ve seen warmly embraced by my progressive friends. The book does, indeed, spotlight a few interesting insights; but, in the end, it’s yet another book that focuses on poverty without ever addressing the real elephant in the room: Why is there poverty in the United States of America? (The “why” questions are so seldom asked, by the media or anyone.) Answering this would mean tackling some mighty, complex and fundamental questions about capitalism, racism, sexism and mental health. And those four doors are just never opened in America. Well, perhaps they are occasionally budged open for a fleeting peek; but the doors of capitalism, racism, sexism and mental health are always once again quickly slammed shut. So, in “Scarcity,” we’re left with an examination of only half of the story – what happens to the individual, how do an individual’s skills affect his or her life, how do an individual’s opportunities make or break his or her future, how do an individual’s ambitions shape what will come? There is no consideration of larger and equally important societal influences, roles and responsibilities. What effect do community and culture have on the individual? It’s never asked – and that’s the scarcity in “Scarcity.”


Post a Comment

<< Home