Friday, December 5, 2003

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Your holiday book recommendations

New month -- time to update the book recommendations.

In response to the feedback on this post about Opus and Bloom County, the "general interest" book is The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson. Of all the Calvin and Hobbes collections to have, this is the best one, since Watterson comments on the strip itself as well as his campaign to have more autonomy in his Sunday cartoons, many of which are reprinted here. There were a lot of great comic strips in the late eighties/early nineties -- Bloom Country, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Foxtrot -- but Watterson's creation stands out. If it's true that much of culture is confined to one's generation, surely Calvin and Hobbes deserves to be an exception to that rule.

The "international relations" book is Christina Davis' Food Fights over Free Trade. Davis points out that contrary to the conventional wisdom, compared to 1950 there has been significant agricultural liberalization among the developed countries. The explanation? International institutions, specifically the GATT/WTO regime. Through the promulgation of hard law and the ability to link agricultural issues to liberalization in other sectors, the United States has been able to pry open protected markets in Japan and Europe. A brief description of the book:

This detailed account of the politics of opening agricultural markets explains how the institutional context of international negotiations alters the balance of interests at the domestic level to favor trade liberalization despite opposition from powerful farm groups. Historically, agriculture stands out as a sector in which countries stubbornly defend domestic programs, and agricultural issues have been the most frequent source of trade disputes in the postwar trading system. While much protection remains, agricultural trade negotiations have resulted in substantial concessions as well as negotiation collapses. Food Fights over Free Trade shows that the liberalization that has occurred has been due to the role of international institutions.

Christina Davis examines the past thirty years of U.S. agricultural trade negotiations with Japan and Europe based on statistical analysis of an original dataset, case studies, and in-depth interviews with over one hundred negotiators and politicians. She shows how the use of issue linkage and international law in the negotiation structure transforms narrow interest group politics into a more broad-based decision process that considers the larger stakes of the negotiation. Even when U.S. threats and the spiraling budget costs of agricultural protection have failed to bring policy change, the agenda, rules, and procedures of trade negotiations have often provided the necessary leverage to open Japanese and European markets.

Chinese, Brazilian, Indian, and South African trade negotiators would serve themselves well by reading this book in order to devise a strategy to restart Cancun.

posted by Dan on 12.05.03 at 03:48 PM


Calvin and Hobbes is a priceless, timeless contribution to our literary history. I always enjoyed it when I was growing up, but I never truly appreciated how brilliant it was until I had a son of my own.

posted by: Catsy on 12.05.03 at 03:48 PM [permalink]

Anyone have any rousing Historical Fiction suggestions?

I recently finished Collen McCullough's series on
ancient Rome with The October Horse, and I'm looking for another series in that semi-lite vein of fleshing out particular periods of history. I've already covered the O'Brien novels as well as everything by Bernard Cornwell.

posted by: Waffle on 12.05.03 at 03:48 PM [permalink]

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