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Economics for Social Workers: Social Outcomes of Economic Globalization with Strategies for Community Action (International Social Work)
Economics for Social Workers: Social Outcomes of Economic Globalization with Strategies for Community Action (International Social Work)
by Arline Wyner Prigoff
Edition: Paperback
37 used & new from $4.42

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unbalanced but interesting, August 12, 2006
Part diatribe against transnational corporations and their related financial markets and part apologia for the inclusion of economics in the social work curriculum, this volume raises far more questions than it answers. The historical interpretation of the rise of capitalism and free market globalization, an interpretation that takes up more than half of the text, cannot be considered a balanced or nuanced view.

For example, the author's preference for Keynesian economic policies over the monetary controls advocated by Friedman is naïve. It has not been informed by serious consideration of Hayek's argument that expansion and contraction of public expenditures (ala Keynes) tends to exacerbate the extremes of economic cycles due to the time lag associated with the expenditures. Contemporary limitations on the measurement of economic indicators and delays in legislative response preclude the possibility that a Keynesian approach is likely to be effective except by accident.

Without exception, every allusion to corporate profit motives is denounced as evil in both intent and consequence. Prigoff seems to dismiss as immaterial the argument that free markets maximize individual choice and autonomy. Community organization and collective action, the primary suggestions to alleviate the negative consequences of globalization, may tend to restrict self-determination without eliminating the potential for power abuse by those who dominate the collective.

Despite these concerns, I found this volume worthwhile. Prigoff's criticism of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund will force me to study international finance more fully, and her continuing refrain that corporations are not held accountable for the environmental costs of their decisions point to the need for change. Finally, I could not agree more with her contention that social workers need to be familiar with economics. All the psychotherapy in the world will prove inadequate if the causal mechanisms fomenting dysfunction are rooted in economic injustices.

Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places (RAND Studies in Policy Analysis)
Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places (RAND Studies in Policy Analysis)
by Robert J. MacCoun
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.48
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filled with data-rich insights, May 30, 2006
I'll admit that any book with the work heresies in the title has an automatic advantage in peaking my interest, but this volume does so much more than merely entice. MacCoun and Reuter have done an amazing job of looking that drug prohibition from a new point of view. Frankly, despite the passage of a few years, I believe that this book is absolute essential if one hopes to really understand the controversy over the War on Drugs.

Rather than attempt a summary of the contents, let me simply point to three specifics as representative of the wealth of insight the reader will encounter. First, MacCoun and Reuter have expanded the typical dichotomous legalization v criminalization perspectives to include depenalization and commercialization. Counter the arguments of drug prohibitionists, depenalization does not seem to be inextricably intertwined with massive increases in the prevalence of drug use as is anticipated with legalization. Also, legalization may have less negative increases in prevalence without the accompaniment of commercialization. By adding these two considerations, MacCoun and Reuter enable expansion of the debate into potentially fertile areas for improving the consequences of prohibition.

Secondly, the careful analysis of the 48 negative consequences of prohibition and the related causal linkage to enforcement, illegal status, and use should be the focus of careful reflection by every reader. In many respects, the damage caused by the War on Drugs is a kind of collateral damage - unintentionally caused by the implementation of US prohibition efforts.

Thirdly, MacCoun & Reuter reconceptualize the total harmfulness of illicit drugs as the interaction of three factors: prevalence, intensity, and micro harm (i.e., user self-damage). Much of the criticism of drug prohibition deals with the extensive micro harm without equal weight being given to the total harmfulness to our society. The negative correlation between prevalence and micro harm is among the more interesting possibilities to consider.

In summary, it is quite difficult to imagine a more sensitive evaluation of drug prohibition that so carefully considers the US case in light of the European context and the historical experience with legal addictive substances (alcohol and tobacco). I cannot recommend this book more highly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2011 10:57 AM PDT

An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy (Aei Evaluative Studies)
An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy (Aei Evaluative Studies)
by David Boyum
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.86
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable as primer, May 29, 2006
Drug prohibition is a smorgasbord of federal policies that are nearly universally declaimed as ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Boyum and Reuter have prepared a masterfully short introduction to this issue. In it they provide a balanced account of the essential information from the history of drug prohibition to a comprehensive overview of the drug problem to a presentation and critique of many of the specific policies that exist.

In summary, they show how drug use tends to follow contagion patterns that are often geographically limited rather than widely dispersed growth. Contrary to popular conceptions, dependence and addiction are relatively rare. Prohibition policies heavily favor enforcement and supply restraint; however, the cost effectiveness of these policies seems wanting. Treatment appears substantially more effective. On nearly every page the reader is confronted with a synthesis of the very best evidence available.

Some of the more useful information in this slim volume are the critical analyses of federal sources on information on the prevalence of illicit drug use and the budgetary costs associated with the war on drugs. Interestingly, there is little to no research presented on the effectiveness of user sanctions on restraining prevalence, desistence is not really explained, and there is likewise almost no evidence supporting the tremendous resources devoted to prevention programs.

Anyone familiar with the debate over drug prohibition will not be surprised by the recommendations contained here. Reduction in criminal sanctions for marijuana use is supported; preference for treatment over penalization is recommended; redirecting enforcement toward the more violent segments of the drug market is suggested; heavier concentration of addicts and dependent users, especially those under mandatory supervision of the criminal justice system is presented as the most likely to negatively impact prevalence.

I recommend this volume with one caveat: opposition to the adverse consequences of drug prohibition should not be conflated with opposition to drug prohibition. There is substantial evidence that suggests that reduction in negative consequences for illicit drug users may increase prevalence of use. If this were to occur, what would prevent illicit drugs from becoming as huge a public health problem as alcohol and tobacco currently represent?

Health Behavior Change: A Guide for Practitioners, 1e
Health Behavior Change: A Guide for Practitioners, 1e
by Stephen Rollnick
Edition: Paperback
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent or Flawed? - Depends on your perspective, April 2, 2006
It's a bit unusual for me to agree with customer reviews that both praise and criticize a book, but in this case I do. On the one hand, Rollnick et al, have done an amazing job of applying motivational interviewing and stages of change theory to the short interchanges common with patients in a medical setting. For those readers already well-versed in stages of change, this is an excellent and thought-provoking approach. I believe many "counselors" of various stripes would benefit from the applications advocated in this book.

On the other hand, I found the theoretical foundation wholly inadequate. While I appreciated the attempts of the authors to carefully distinguish between evidence-based substantiation of their guidelines and the weaker suggestions based on clinical practice, I felt that there was a preponderance of the latter.

I was also overwhelmed by the repetition included in the three final "application" chapters. Surely there is a better way to present this material! Frankly, the final chapters are so tedious to read that I suspect the average medical professional tends to conclude this volume with a less-than-enthusiastic feeling regarding the guidance.

My advice is to read through chapter 5, at the most, and to consult chapters 6-8 only after encountering specific problems in applying the techniques provided.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 28, 2010 4:02 AM PDT

Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Bk Currents)
Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy (Bk Currents)
by Howard Jacob Karger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.83
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best source for understanding the American consumer economy, September 28, 2005
In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act transformed welfare to workfare, and the lives of the poor were radically altered. In 2001 Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) showed us the health and housing woes of the working poor, concluding, among other things, that minimum wages must rise. Last year David Shipler (The Working Poor) expanded Ehrenreich's experience, concluding:

". . . [W]orking poverty is a constellation of difficulties that magnify one another: not just low wages but also low education, not just dead-in jobs but also limited abilities, not just insufficient savings but also unwise spending, not just poor housing but also poor parenting, not just the lack of health insurance but also the lack of healthy households" (p. 285).

In this volume Howard Karger makes an amazing contribution to our understanding of the working poor. He moves beyond Ehrenreich's simple solution (give the poor more money and they will not be poor), and he avoids the scent of victim-blaming that clings to Shipler's work despite his sensitivity and compassion. Instead, Karger analyzes the alternative financial services sector, or fringe economy, and shows how it systematically stalks the poor, working poor, and vulnerable middle class.

What is the fringe economy? Karger describes it as "corporate and business practices that have a predatory relationship with the poor by charging excessive interest rates or fees, or exorbitant prices for goods or services" (p. x). Laying aside the obvious counter-argument that high risk deserves high rates of return, who are the primary customers for the fringe economy? Karger notes that it is the 28% of American adults without a bank account, the 40 million Americans without health insurance, the 33.1 million foreign born residents, especially the undocumented segment, and the high debt, low asset segment of the middle class.

Does high risk justify high rates of return? Secured credit cards assume no risk, yet charge high origination fees, high monthly service fees, and high interest rates. Pawnshops rarely loan up to 50% of the value of surrendered collateral with interest charges as high as 24% for a single month. Payday loans are secured by check or electronic debit with the debtor liable for criminal charges for non-payment and earn interest equivalent to 800% a year. In 2002 tax preparation services, refund loans, and check cashing fees related to government-backed Earned Income Tax Credits cost the working poor $1.31 billion. Rent-to-own stores routinely price furniture and electronics at more than double the prevailing purchase price. Independent used car lots do the same.

The sad fact is that the fringe economy assumes almost no risk. Because the clientele does not have access to mainstream sources of credit, the fringe economy is able to set prices at will, and does. Whether one is looking at the credit card industry, used car sales, housing, telecommunications, or even the get-out-of-debt industry, the story is the same. Almost no one is barred from access, but for those without good credit, the costs just continue to escalate.

I have been a certified public accountant for over 20 years, but I learned a lot by reading this book. I can think of no better source of information on how our American consumer economy actually operates. I became more enthusiastic about the book with each chapter I read, and you will, too. Reading it, however, might entail a bit of risk. It is likely to change your own consumption patterns, and it is likely to result in the purchase of multiple copies, especially if you have people close to you that you would like to help!

The Book of Learning and Forgetting
The Book of Learning and Forgetting
by Frank Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $22.40
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite valuable despite a bit of tilting at windmills, May 27, 2004
Smith, a cognitive psychologist, presents an informal interpretation of two disparate perspectives on human learning. On one extreme he presents the "classical view" in which learning is the natural, implicit, and unconscious byproduct of social contexts. On the other extreme he presents the "official theory" of learning that assumes learning is the result of effort, structure, repetition, and discipline.
This type of dichotomizing, while quite useful in highlighting the distinctions Smith is making, does tend to oversimplify the issues. In this case, he demonizes the official theory while divinizing the classical view. As a result, his tone of voice is a bit extreme, his conclusions faulty, and his suggestions for educational reform unrealistic.
Then why give this slim volume a four star rating? Educators need to be continually reminded, as they are here, that learning is not about recall of facts, but about the restructuring of the students' long-term memory. Long-term memory is arranged semantically. This means that new concepts must build on old ones in some kind of meaningful way. The catch for the educator is that the student is the one who gets to decide what is meaningful.
Education is not about recitation of facts, completion of tests, or skill development. Education is about connecting the student to meaningful content in a way that builds on the innate capacity to learn. It is not taught until the student owns it. Because Smith will settle for nothing less than this, I recommend the book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2008 12:06 AM PST

The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century
The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century
by David Salsburg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.59
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Noble effort, and entertaining., May 25, 2004
It should come as no surprise to any reader that a 300 page collection of anecdotes might fall a bit short in realizing the implied goal in Salsburg's subtitle. He attempts to explain the paradigmatic shift in science from a Newtonian determinism to a probabilistic worldview by focusing on the statisticians themselves. The reader is often left with a desire for more - either more explanation of the paradigm shift or more anecdotes.
Nonetheless, I found this volume entertaining. I was fascinated by the newness in this field. Certainly nothing in my education led me to believe that virtually every aspect of social science research and statistical analysis is a 20th century invention. Who would have thought that the essence of 21st century social science research would be so well-anchored in agricultural studies and, perhaps most importantly, in the quality control efforts by master brewers at Guinness?
Salsburg intends to write to a non-statistical audience in language that can be understood without mathematic symbols. In this he is only partly successful. He does avoid technical symbols and most technical jargon, but in doing so he is often too vague to make his point clear. Even with three years of graduate statistics (from a social science perspective), I often found myself unsure of his explanations.
In the final analysis, Salsburg's description of the "statistical revolution" in science is really more of a sketch than a portrait. The significances of a shift from certainty to probability cannot be easily explained, but I will give him credit for trying to do so. That he is able to deal with this shift without explicitly commenting on the implications of this shift for religion, values, meaning, and justice is perhaps one of this book's major strengths.
Unfortunately, Salsburg concludes with a critique of the statistical revolution that may weaken the impact of his stories. Those desperately holding onto a Newtonian worldview could use this critique to discount 20th century science, especially social science. If, as Salsburg suggests, we are on the cusp of another paradigm shift, any post-statistical revolution is unlikely to be advanced by those continuing to resist the statistical one.

Hayek on Liberty, 3rd Edition
Hayek on Liberty, 3rd Edition
by John Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: $51.24
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth more than a single read, May 18, 2004
The shear volume of work completed by Hayek over a publishing career that marked more than fifty years makes it quite difficult to grasp the interlocking system of ideas he advocated. Gray has done an exceptional job of synthesizing this work. He presents the philosophical roots of Hayek's thought, the unique 20th century context in which Hayek's ideas competed with others, and a magnificent critique that anyone interested in Hayek should study.
Essentially, Gray reduces Hayek's contribution to that of a critic of socialism. Hayek's assertion that socialized central planning was an "epistemological impossibility," while historically evident, provides an inadequate justification for the 19th century form of capitalism Hayek advocated. The post-communist 21st century must deal with competing capitalisms, not rigid centrally planned economies, and Gray considers Hayek inadequate on this score.
Gray believes that Hayek missed an essential aspect of free market capitalism, that is, the power of progress. Free markets demand change, even change for change's sake, and the metaphor of a "spontaneous social order" arising in some sort of social evolution is not adequate to provide support for the traditional values and institutions for which Hayek had regard. Personal autonomy will always present a danger to social cohesion. In Gray's view, the free market advocated by Hayek prefers the former to the latter.
To Gray this weakness in Hayek's thought is fatal, and I tend to agree.

Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek
Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek
by Alan O. Ebenstein
Edition: Hardcover
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable thematic supplement, May 17, 2004
In this readable volume, Ebenstein offers an overview of Hayek's thought organized thematically rather than chronologically. It is meant as a companion volume to Ebenstein's biography of Hayek, but I read it as a supplement to Caldwell's intellectual biography, Hayek's Challenge.
Being only modestly acquainted with 20th century history, and even less so on economic and political theories, I strongly endorse reading a historical account of Hayek prior to considering this thematic presentation. Hayek was a man of his time, passionately contending with political ideologies and economic centralization that he felt threatened individual liberties. In my view, a historical approach can more aptly express the interplay of social, cultural, and personal influences that shaped Hayek's life and thought.
Be that as it may, Ebenstein has done a fine job in this book. Each chapter is devoted to a specific idea of, or a major influence on, Hayek. Foundational ideas incorporated into Hayek's thought are discussed (Darwinianism, German historicism, Austrian school economics) as are significant works that denoted major changes in his thought. Individual chapters deal with Mises, Keynes, Friedman and Popper, and another contrasts Hayek's thought with Marx, Mill, and Freud. Hayek's major economic thought is address in chapters devoted to both his early years and his later work.
I recommend this book primarily as a ready and current reference for the ongoing debates and interpretations of Hayek. Ebenstein's Bibliographical Essay on the collected works of Hayek may be an essential source for those studying this man.

Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek
Hayek's Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek
by Bruce J. Caldwell
Edition: Hardcover
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing bio of an amazing thinker!, May 14, 2004
Tasked with the need to understand a contemporary, conservative thinker in a doctoral course on social justice, I was enriched by the professor's suggestion that I focus on Hayek. In due course I came upon this book by Caldwell. I wish to echo the earlier reviewers praise - this book is everything an intellectual history should be. The reader will become intimately familiar with the historical antecedents to Hayek, the academic, cultural, and historical milieu in which he worked, and the likely future his ideas will have.
I approached this book as a complete novice. I had never heard of Hayek, and frankly, reading this book stretched my 18 hours of undergraduate economics about as far as they could be stretched, but I was left with an astonishing respect for this economist turned political theorist. How is it possible that Hayek could have escaped my notice for 50 years?
One hundred and thirty pages are devoted, not to Hayek, but to Austrian school economics (i.e. - subjective value, marginalism, entrepreneurship) and its founder Carl Menger. Caldwell introduces key figures in the Austrian school at length (Bohm-Bawerk, Wieser, and Mises) as well as the chief protagonists of the school (German historical, socialism).
Into this fray comes Hayek, an ambitious but not a particularly aggressive academic. Any attempt at summarizing Hayek's thought is easily criticized, but from my personal perspective, Hayek seems to have been a master at synthesis. He linked what today would be called cognitive psychology with philosophy to produce an epistemology that is foundational to all his subsequent work. Further, he linked this epistemology with social evolution to explain social advance, social stability, and social institutions and values.
Epistemologically, Hayek understood human beings to possess a subjective ignorance. He denounced the "rational economic man" as a fiction, but asserted the importance of the free market supply/demand pricing mechanism. Without this pricing mechanism, economic planning was doomed to inefficiency and competitive disadvantage while the individual was cast adrift without any objective anchors with which to make decisions. Without the freedom to pursue subjective goals, however ignorant, there was no individual liberty.
It was from the random and chaotic subjectively ignorant decisions of the individual that social institutions evolved (i.e. - order out of chaos). The fittest of these social constructs prevail over time and form the framework of stability essential for the maintenance of a free marketplace and for the subjective projection of future value.
Hayek was awarded a Nobel Prize for economics in 1974 and the American Medal of Freedom in 1992 by then president George Bush, Sr. After spending a semester reading about this man and his ideas, I have become convinced that Hayek is a foundational thinker undergirding the conservative resurgence in America during the past 40 years. It is unlikely that there will ever be a finer intellectual biography than that provided by Caldwell. Everyone interested in social policy, social justice, and contemporary trends should become familiar with this book.
One last warning, Caldwell writes as an academic for academics. Footnotes abound, and there are four appendices directed at specialists. A lay reader will frequently realize that he cannot appreciate all of the subtle points that Caldwell is making. Despite these facts, this is a readable book worth the effort.

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