Saturday, July 1, 2006

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Your summer books for 2006!!

Astute and frequent readers of -- 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.

Since 9/11, Brooks has produced some of the most interesting analytical work out there on U.S. grand strategy. I'm looking forward to reading his book.

2) Stephen Hopgood, Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International. According to the jacket cover:

The first in-depth look at working life inside a major human rights organization, Keepers of the Flame charts the history of Amnesty International and the development of its nerve center, the International Secretariat, over forty-five years. Through interviews with staff members, archival research, and unprecedented access to Amnesty International’s internal meetings, Stephen Hopgood provides an engrossing and enlightening account of day-to-day operations within the organization, larger decisions about the nature of its mission, and struggles over the implementation of that mission....

An enduring feature of Amnesty’s inner life, Hopgood finds, has been a recurrent struggle between the "keepers of the flame" who seek to preserve Amnesty’s accumulated store of moral authority and reformers who hope to change, modernize, and use that moral authority in ways that its protectors fear may erode the organization’s uniqueness. He also explores how this concept of moral authority affects the working lives of the servants of such an ideal and the ways in which it can undermine an institution’s political authority over time. Hopgood argues that human-rights activism is a social practice best understood as a secular religion where internal conflict between sacred and profane—the mission and the practicalities of everyday operations—are both unavoidable and necessary.

3) Rosemary Foot, S. Neil MacFarlane, and Michael Mastanduno, eds., U.S. Hegemony and International Organizations. One of my projects this summer will be on when the U.S. is constrained from forum-shopping among different international organizations. This will obviously require a little "soaking and poking" into the relationship. This book -- with contributions by John Ikenberry, Ngaire Woods, and Stephen Hopgood -- looks like an excellent place to start.

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."

This book also has its own web site at If you buy the book. click on this form to tell them where you got it from!

2) David Warsh, Knowledge and the Wealth Of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery. Ostensibly about the role that Paul Romer's 1990 paper in the Journal of Political Economy played in jumpstarting endogenous growth theory, the book is really a history of economic thought about the causes of growth, as well as a sociology of how the economics profession works nowadays. Warsh gets some minor things wrong (on p. 63, he writes, "In the beginning, however, Karl Marx was an economist." Er, no, in the beginning he was a philosopher), but he gets the major things right.

3) Deepak Lal, Reviving the Invisible Hand: The Case for Classical Liberalism in the Twenty-first Century. "Reviving the Invisible Hand is an uncompromising call for a global return to a classical liberal economic order, free of interference from governments and international organizations. Arguing for a revival of the invisible hand of free international trade and global capital, Lal vigorously defends the view that statist attempts to ameliorate the impact of markets threaten global economic progress and stability. And in an unusual move, he not only defends globalization economically, but also answers the cultural and moral objections of antiglobalizers.

Taking a broad cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approach, Lal argues that there are two groups opposed to globalization: cultural nationalists who oppose not capitalism but Westernization, and "new dirigistes" who oppose not Westernization but capitalism. In response, Lal contends that capitalism doesn't have to lead to Westernization, as the examples of Japan, China, and India show, and that "new dirigiste" complaints have more to do with the demoralization of their societies than with the capitalist instruments of prosperity."

4) Ethan Kapstein, Economic Justice in an Unfair World: Toward a Level Playing Field: "Recent years have seen a growing number of activists, scholars, and even policymakers claiming that the global economy is unfair and unjust, particularly to developing countries and the poor within them. But what would a fair or just global economy look like? Economic Justice in an Unfair World seeks to answer that question by presenting a bold and provocative argument that emphasizes economic relations among states.

The book provides a market-oriented focus, arguing that a just international economy would be one that is inclusive, participatory, and welfare-enhancing for all states. Rejecting radical redistribution schemes between rich and poor, Ethan Kapstein asserts that a politically feasible approach to international economic justice would emphasize free trade and limited flows of foreign assistance in order to help countries exercise their comparative advantage.

Kapstein also addresses justice in labor, migration, and investment, in each case defending an approach that concentrates on nation-states and their unique social compacts."

5) Benjamin Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. "[T]he acclaimed Harvard economist and advisor to the Federal Reserve Board says economic stagnation is bad for the moral health of a nation. Friedman, a former chair of Harvard's economics department, argues that economic growth is vital to social and political progress. Witness Hitler's Germany. Without growth, people look for answers in intolerance and fear. And that, Friedman warns, is where the U.S. is headed if the economic stagnation of the past three decades doesn't soon reverse. It's not enough for gross domestic product to rise, he says. Growth also has to be more evenly distributed. The rich shouldn't be the only ones getting richer."

Ideally, I would like to read this along with the AER paper recently linked to by Tyler Cowen.

6) Francis Fukuyama, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century. "asserts that the lack of "organizational tradition" in "failed or weak" nations such as Afghanistan and Haiti represents the greatest threat to an orderly world. He argues that the United States, and the West in general, after rightly intervening in such states either militarily or economically (most often through the IMF or World Bank), have failed to transfer institutional and public- and private-sector know-how to needy countries. The goal is to "create self-sustaining state institutions that can survive the withdrawal of outside intervention," though Fukuyama acknowledges that the developed world has failed, setting people up for "large disappointments." The author quickly surveys other recent theories-Sen, Kagan, Huntington-and concludes that the answer lies in providing states with internal organizational structure and, above all, with a culture that enables strong leaders and government institutions to enforce capitalist and free-market values."

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.

2) Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down. Although lad literature has received a critical drubbing as of late, Hornby remains the progenitor of the form. Most important, Hornby passes the strictest of all of my tests for whether I should read something -- he makes my wife laugh.

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.

Ghost of Adam Smith
Pratap Bhanu MehtaPosted online: Sunday, July 02, 2006 at 0000 hrs Print Email

Disciples of great masters are often more dogmatic about the ideas of their masters than the masters themselves were. This remark would not be entirely inappropriate for Deepak Lal’s vigorous, erudite but ultimately contentious defence of classical liberalism. Like Adam Smith, Lal firmly believes in a strong but minimal state; he believes that a system of natural liberty is more likely to produce prosperity and raise the condition of the least well-off; like Smith, he believes that the state needs to be protected from the power of interested oligarchies of all kind, including those of Capitalists and intellectuals. Much of the book is devoted to answering critics of classical liberalism with a mass of historical and empirical evidences.

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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