DeLong and Eichengreen: New Preface to Charles Kindleberger, "The World in Depression 1929-1939": Hoisted from the Archives

Across the Wide Missouri The first sign on whether Zanny Minton Beddoes has managed to improve the Economist that John Micklethwaite handed her is a "no":

Scott Eric Kaufman: The Economist: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” is “just good enough to get away with” justifying its existence: "Wrestling with the ideas contained in a book that’s difficult for many people to read...

...shouldn’t result in patently unfair reviews from anonymous, intellectually dishonest critics like the individual who penned The Economist’s.... ‘The epistolary form is not the only archaic thing about Mr Coates’s book,’ the reviewer writes, apparently unaware that Coates is very deliberately referencing James Baldwin’s ‘Letter to My Nephew’.... The reviewer — I was about to write ‘he,’ for what I hope are sadly obvious reasons — proceeds to denigrate the quality of Coates’ prose, characterizing it ‘loquacious, repetitive, at times self-indulgent and just good enough to get away with it,’ and follows that judgment with a passage that demonstrates said judgment’s worthlessness. Quoting a moving passage after claiming that the writer is barely capable of producing one is probably not the best idea.

But the reviewer had to pen a contrarian review, so quoting other passages was absolutely out of the question. It’d be difficult to argue against the power of Coates’ prose if one quoted this, after all:

Americans believe in the reality of ‘race’ as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism — the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them — inevitably follows from this inalterable condition.

That wouldn’t do at all. But the central offense the brave anonymous reviewer seems to have suffered from Coates’ book is, however, the fact that ‘Between the World and Me’ contains many statements to the effect that well-intentioned white people are complicit in systemic racism.... So the reviewer just claims that the opposite is true — contrarianism is a calling, not a birthright, after all — writing that:

by spreading blame so widely, Mr Coates eases the consciences of those who fastened the chains, tightened the noose, wielded the billy club and the people who told them to do it.

The notion that a white person could read Coates’ book and have their consciences eased by it is, to be frank, so absurd as to suggest that the reviewer hasn’t even read the book...