Mark J. Penn's Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes looks at the economy from the perspective of a cultural and political analyst. Besides being CEO of Burson-Marsteller, Penn served as a pollster to Bill Clinton; he is currently an advisor to such powerful types as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. Thus, he is in a position to anticipate not only major shifts in social and fiscal policy, but also smaller cultural changes.

The many trends that Penn and co-author E. Kinney Zalesne identify as having significant future impact range from the potentially divisive (a sizable increase in the number of ex-convicts in the general population; a rise in the ranks of highly educated, connected and well-financed domestic terrorists and terrorist sympathizers) to the quirky (more left-handers, more office romances and more people eschewing the practice of sun-bathing). They encompass the curious (a surge in the number of 20-year-olds who knit; the increased popularity of archery) and the intriguing (growing numbers of Latino Protestants; second-home buyers).

Some readers might question some of Penn's other contentions, particularly that less-educated voters are becoming more issue-oriented and sophisticated than their supposedly smarter comrades or that anti-Semitism is declining. But as the person who identified soccer moms as a key constituency long before his rivals, Penn is not given to shallow analysis or premature conclusions. Microtrends is a book you'll return to often over the next few years to track the accuracy and validity of its predictions.

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