Buffett, Howard G. 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World. S. & S. Oct. 2013. 352p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781451687866. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451687880. INT AFFAIRS
Buffett (president, Howard G. Buffett Fdn.), son of Warren Buffett, is a philanthropist trying to tackle the problem of global food insecurity. Basing his argument on the premise that a farmer (which is how the author describes himself) has 40 growing seasons in a lifetime during which to improve harvests, Buffett posits that we all have the same time (hence the title) to make a difference in our own charitable endeavors. In 40 chapters, arranged according to vague themes (e.g., “Bravery, Courage, and Hope,” “Hard-Learned Lessons”), he offers stories of his own foundation’s work, including areas in need of progress and further investigation. In projects such as helping farmers enhance soil conditions and grow and market applicable crops, Buffett has sought to provide people with the tools to change their situations and compound the benefits for those who come after. He is in favor of genetically modified crops such as Monsanto’s, which will leave some readers wondering about his relationship with agribusiness. VERDICT If Buffett had narrowed his scope in order to stay focused and go deeper, the book would have had greater value. As is, it comes across more as a vanity publication, albeit one with good intentions at its core. [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13.]
22 Ideas To Fix the World: Conversations with the World’s Foremost Thinkers. New York Univ. Oct. 2013. 492p. ed. by Piotr Dutkiewicz & Richard Sakwa. notes. index. ISBN 9781479860982. $27.95. INT AFFAIRS
Dutkiewicz (director, Ctr. for Governance & Public Policy, Carleton Univ.) and Sakwa (Russian & European politics, Univ. of Kent) have edited a remarkable collection of interviews with preeminent “thinkers” to answer the titular challenge. The thinkers, each interviewed either by one of the editors or another “thinker,” reflect on global political and economic problems, focusing on the time since the 2008 financial crisis. However, few of the 22 participants offer any “fix” or even a consensus about what the world’s problems are. Some of them, e.g., Nobel prize–winning economists Muhammad Yunus and Joseph Stiglitz, provide relevant updates of their own past work. Others, primarily academics such as Peter Katzenstein and Mike Davis, offer original “big picture” ideas on capitalism and society. Finally, some, including Will Kymlicka and coauthors Shimshon Bichler, the Israeli political economist, and Jonathan Nitzan (with Bichler, Capital as Power), treat, respectively, the state of multiculturalism and current economic thought. The interviews present a nice mix of emphases on public policy, society, and individual countries. The attention to Russia, China, and less-developed countries is especially welcome. VERDICT Some readers will find a left-of-center bias in the choice of contributors, yet the contributors’ expertise, depth, and accessibility are unimpeachable. Both general and academic readers will find much of value.