Book Briefs The latest in current affairs

Banks, Thrifts, and Insurance Companies: Surviving the 1980s, by Alan Gart. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 136 pp. $19.95. This overview of recent tumult by a former bank vice-president and finance professor may be textbookish dull, but it covers a wide swath in a simple and unaffected fashion. Financial services face many changes as a result of deregulation, technological changes such as debit cards and home banking, and the shifting financial structure of major companies such as Merrill Lynch, Sears, Prudential, ITT, and 10 others. Some expected changes by the year 2000: Banks will account for much personal insurance; ind ependent insurance agents will decline dramatically; insurance companies will act increasingly as risk-management advisers; interstate banking and acquisitions will substantially reduce the number of banks.

The Aging: A Guide to Public Policy, by Bennett M. Rich and Martha Baum. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press. December 1984. 275 pp. $24.95 cloth. $8.95 paper.

Paralleling the no-frills guide to the changing world of financial services (above), this guide illuminates an equally complex and important realm: publicly funded resources for the elderly. The percentage of Americans aged 65 and over grew from 4 percent in 1900 to 8 percent in 1950. It is 12 percent today, with projections for expansion to nearly 20 percent of the population by 2025. Efforts on behalf of the elderly have increased in recent decades, although most programs have been developed in a piec emeal fashion. Rich and Baum survey the politics of aging, general and specialized retirement programs, health programs, transportation and housing for the elderly, and government programs for older workers and veterans. Fragmentation of programs and lack of coordination is attributed to the complex structure and incremental process of United States policymaking. Little hope is seen for any increased policy coherence in the near future. There may be program cutbacks or modifications due to austerity.

Filters Against Folly: How to Survive Despite Economists, Ecologists, and the Merely Eloquent, by Garrett Hardin. New York: Viking. 240 pp. $15.95.

The author of ``Exploring New Ethics for Survival'' (expanding on his 1968 essay, ``The Tragedy of the Commons'') admits that we need specialists in our complex world. But we must learn to filter the data and arguments of the experts, to protect ourselves against their biases and assumptions. Three intellectual filters are advocated as an improvement on C. P. Snow's two cultures of science and literature. We need a literate filter to understand the precise meaning of words, a numerate filter that emphas izes ratios and proportions, and an ``ecolate filter'' to evaluate the consequences of an action over time. Hardin also explores such concerns as the effect of scale on values, the expert as enemy, local action as the source of global problems, and ecology as a truly conservative doctrine. An original, would-be assault on the small-minded thinking and conventional wisdoms still commonplace.

America Looks to the Sea: Ocean Use and the National Interest, by Douglas L. Brooks. Boston, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers (20 Park Plaza). September 1984. 266 pp. $19.95.

Why worry about the oceans? This fine overview by the former executive director of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere stresses recent pervasive transformation of seagoing enterprises. His message: We must recognize that oceans are a great commons, requiring the growing number of users to act as nurturers rather than exploiters. Chapters cover the politics of oceans, fisheries, world shipping, energy from the sea, waste disposal, coastal zones, military uses, and the Law of the Sea Treaty. [A similar but more popularized message is given in Neptune's Revenge: The Ocean of Tomorrow, by Anne W. Simon. (New York: Franklin Watts. 1984. 222 pp. $15.95.) The title warns of declining life on earth as Neptune's reprisal for ocean deterioration now becoming visible.]

Michael Marien edits Future Survey, published monthly by the World Future Society, Bethesda, Md.

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