Saturday, July 1, 2006
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Your summer books for 2006!!
Astute and frequent readers of danieldrezner.com -- all six of you -- might have noticed that I did not post any books of the month for this June. Astute as you all are, no doubt you suspected this was because of my preoccupation with moving and its attendant minor disasters.
You would be correct.
However, with summer now upon us, I hope to make up for this by posting my reading recommendations for the entire summer at once. Rather than break this down into international relations and general interest, however, there are three categories:
A) Work books -- a.k.a., international relations. These are the books I really need to read becaue of my research, or my need to stay current in what's going on in my field:
1) Stephen G. Brooks, Producing Security: Multinational Corporations, Globalization, and the Changing Calculus of Conflict. Does the globalization of production lead to peace? Librals say yes and realists say no, but the real answer is likely to be a wee bit more complex than that. Brooks looks at the phenomenon the right way by examining just how production has been globalized and how that affects different conflict situations. He concludes that globalization reduces violent conflicts between great powers but exacerbates it among developing economies.B) Work and play books. This is a category of books that I probably don't need to read to further my immediate research or teaching needs, but I find the topic or the author sufficiently intriguing that I can't resist. Down the road, these books often wind up jumpstarting research ideas.
For the record, these are the kind of books I bring on my vacations
In order to have time to actually read them rather than write about them , I'm cribbing from the salient parts of their self-descriptions :
1) Suzanne Berger et al, How We Compete : What Companies Around the World Are Doing to Make it in Today's Global Economy: "Based on a five-year study by the MIT Industrial Performance Center, How We Compete goes into the trenches of over 500 international companies to discover which practices are succeeding in today’s global economy, which are failing –and why.... What emerged was far more complicated than the black-and-white picture presented by promoters and opponents of globalization. Contrary to popular belief, cheap labor is not the answer, and the world is not flat, as Thomas Friedman would have it. How We Compete shows that there are many different ways to win in the global economy, and that the avenues open to American companies are much wider than we ever imagined."C) Pure play books. Books that have no relationship whatsoever with my work other than to make my brain very happy:
1) Seth Mnookin, Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top. What looks like excellent bookend to the spate of literature, beginning with Steve Kettman's One Day At Fenway, about the renaissance of the Boston Red Sox under the new management structure of John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Tom Werner, and Theo Epstein. Mnookin has posted snippets of his book at his blog, as well as Vanity Fair.That should be enough of a list to qualify for summer vertigo. posted by Dan on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM
I'm really looking forward to reading that Warsh book.
I myself have been reading a not fresh off the presses book at a sedate rate (mostly from only reading at meal times and on the train), Schama's _Embarrassment of Riches_. It started out slow, but his recounting of the tulip mania is really something, in fact, I'm thinking I'll go find the Posthumus article from 1929 that Schama recommends just to read more about it.posted by: JakeB on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM [permalink]
Here is an interesting review of Deepak Lal from the Indian Express, July 2, 2006. Mostly on target.
The storyline here is simple: Open economies will do better than closed ones, any attempts by the state to regulate the economy, even with the best of intentions, will produce sub-optimal outcomes, and any state-induced welfare or redistribution is likely to hurt productive efficiency and welfare. Relying largely on Surjit Bhalla’s work, he argues that globalisation has not only not increased poverty, it has reduced inequalities considerably. Lal marshals an impressive array of arguments to show that detractors of classical liberalism, who support more state control over the economy, are flat out wrong.
What is interesting and contentious is that his list of the controls that do damage is not just the familiar one: Industrial licensing or trade barriers. On these, his case is quite robust. But he wants to extend the list to include unbridled movement of capital and is against all capital controls; he is deeply sceptical of global warming and dismissive of any serious environmental challenges where collective action might be required; he thinks, following Richard Epstein, that those who lose out in the process of globalisation should not be compensated in any respect, that almost all welfare functions should be privatised. There is an admirable toughmindedness about Lal’s arguments, but one suspects that the self-congratulatory toughmindedness gets the better of good judgment, and exaggerates a powerful argument to the point where it risks being a caricature of itself.
Adam Smith was not only sceptical of state power, he was also sceptical of any concentrations of power. The Wealth of Nations, while it is a powerful defence of an open commercial society, has nothing good to say about Capitalists; in fact, its concern for labour is far more pronounced. After all, he could write: “When regulation is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but sometimes it is otherwise when in favour of the masters.” Perhaps Smith was over optimistic about the actual functioning of labour regulation, but he had no doubt that labour would require serious protection.
Lal is curiously silent on the asymmetries of capital and labour, especially when it comes to moving across the globe. It is worth remembering this because classical liberalism had three aspects, two of which Lal completely ignores. The first, which he concentrates on, was a defence of an appropriately minimal state, so that the state itself does not become a predator on society. The second was a theory of historical change, which emerged from the very same sceptical premises that grounded suspicion of state power. On this view, establishing a system of natural liberty would be a slow and perhaps even accidental process; converting it into a single-minded project would licence the very concentrations of power that classical liberals would be wary of. It is not an accident that Smith was the fiercest critic of imperialism whereas Lal strongly endorses Empire as a mechanism for securing markets. Lal is no classical liberal in this respect.
And third, classical liberals had a better sense of political judgment, of the range of values that needed to be kept in mind when determining policy. So, for instance, on capital controls, whatever the theoretical arguments in favour of removing them, there are questions of country-risk that are not entirely irrelevant. No wonder, even Jagdish Bhagwati, who knows his Smith, would be more wary than Lal of an unbridled movement of money. No wonder, even Hayek, who knew his Smith and Hume better than Lal does, could contemplate a serious role for the state in health care.
Lal’s criticisms of the detractors of liberalism are great fun, full of incidental insights and politically brave remarks; it exposed the hypocrisy and cant of the critics of liberalism with great fervour. But the book overdoes it by refusing to engage with the more sober evidence that might cast some doubt on some of Lal’s more extravagant claims. He acts more like a spokesman for George Bush than a disciple of Adam Smith.posted by: shashank on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM [permalink]
I thought Fukuyama's book was really bad I have to say. I hope you aren't disappointed with it but I imagine you will be...posted by: Luther Vandross (really!) on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM [permalink]
you mentioned a while back that you had the book "why europe will run the 21st century". Did you read it? Did it have any merit?posted by: chrisbrandow on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM [permalink]
I thought A Long Way Down was more of a downer - the main theme is rather depressing. It certainly had its funnier moments, but don't go in expecting it to be primarily amusing. I do especially appreciate the B list.posted by: Eric on 07.01.06 at 01:45 PM [permalink]
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