The big read: The Economist’s books of the year
Politics and current affairs
Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World. By Oliver Bullough. Profile Books; 298 pages; £20. To be published in America by St Martin’s Press in May; $28.99
Moneyland is the author’s term for the virtual country into which the world’s mega-rich smuggle their (sometimes ill-gotten) wealth, so insulating it from the attention of tax and other officials. Focused in part on the kleptocrats of the former Soviet Union, the book ranges across the world and a wide cast of lawyers, accountants and mountebanks who see to it that money stolen in poor, ill-run countries can be invested in rich, safe ones. An urgent exposé of a vital subject.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. By Steven Pinker. Viking; 576 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £25
His critics regard him as Panglossian, and suspect he cherry-picks statistics, but the author’s case for global optimism is entertaining and well-argued. The Enlightenment virtues of reason and education, allied to trade and technology, have made the world richer, safer and even happier, he contends, and the improvements are likely to continue. Populists and demagogues are merely a blip in this consoling counterpoint to the misery of the news.