Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism (Susan Berfield)

In The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism, author Susan Berfield details the political fight between Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan during the early parts of the 20th Century. The book also discusses Roosevelt’s fights with and against Morgan over key political battles in the world of business and industry.

Berfield focuses on two major events: First, the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902, a labor battle between the coal industry and miners over wages and hours worked. Second, the Northern Securities case regarding railroad trusts. These two moments were transformative for the role of government in regulating business and protecting workers. Both events also had Roosevelt and Morgan on opposite sides; although with the coal strike, Morgan’s direct involvement was not as minimal as it was with Northern Securities.

While these two events were the key “battles” waged between Roosevelt and Morgan, there were times when Morgan was helpful to American political interests. Both of these moments dealt with fiscal matters that involved either the American government, such as in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, or Morgan’s strongarming of American banking in 1907. While the first of these was given more significant play, Morgan’s work in helping end the 1907 panic and subsequent work towards helping create the Federal Reserve were given much shorter mention. That aside, this book’s central argument of the importance of effective regulation and thoughtful checks on excessive corporate power is important to note in today’s times.


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions (Jeffrey Selingo)

I've always been fascinated by the whole world of college admissions. Why is it so difficult to get into Harvard? Stanford? Yale? In Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, author Jeffrey Selingo explains exactly what goes on behind the scenes in secretive college admissions offices and explains what exactly students can do to better the odds of getting in to their chosen school.

The key word in the previous paragraph was "secretive." Rarely does someone get the chance to ingrain themselves inside three different admissons offices as decisions are made that will affect the rest of a student's life. Selingo writes that getting in doesn't have as much to do with a student's test scores and extracurricular activities (although they aren't unimportant) as it does with what a particular school's "needs" are that year. He also argues that students should try to understand that there are plenty of great schools out there that "aren't" Ivy League or top-ranked and that broadening their choices may result in a wonderful experience at a place they never thought of.

My favorite book about college admissions will always be Jacques Steinberg's The Gatekeepers. However, this is a close second. It's meticulously reported and offers assistance to students and parents as they go through what many consider a very stressful time.


Available September 15, 2020