Friday, May 18, 2007
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May's books of the month
With the end of the semester, I can now proceed with this month's book selections.
The international relations book of the month is The Silence of the Rational Center, by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke. Halper and Clarke offer up an attack against The Big Idea in foreign policy. They argue that the media marketplace tends to generate ideas that are provocative but wrong. Furthermore, the demand for 24/7 content reduces Big Ideas to empty slogans. In crisis moments, these forces overwhelm the "rational center" of experts that are capable of generating sound policy advice. Everyone comes in for attack -- cable news networks, think tanks, and academia. In many ways, this book is the bitter chaser to Jeffry Legro's Remaking the World.
Not all of Halper and Clarke's book is convincing. Indeed, in their fusillades aaginst the idea entrepreneurs, they engage in some of the simplifying, disingenuous tactics that they claim to abhor. That said, as rants go, it's an interesting rant.
The general interest book is Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity, by William Baumol, Robert Litan, and Carl Schramm. The authors are interested in the holiest of economic holies -- the sources of innovation and growth. They are interested in determining the optimal mixture of firms, policies, and government institutions that can foster radical path-breaking innovations. Their conclusion? A mixture of small and established firms, small barriers to entry, flexible labor markets, and -- wait for it -- free trade.
Go check them out!posted by Dan on 05.18.07 at 10:32 AM
"They are interested in determining the optimal mixture of firms, policies, and government institutions that can foster radical path-breaking innovations."
May I ask whether the book defines radical innovations?posted by: David Billington on 05.18.07 at 10:32 AM [permalink]
Sorry, "whether" in the above post should be "how". Innovation is rarely differentiated between radical and whatever isn't radical, and I would be interested to know the criteria they use for making the distinction.posted by: David Billington on 05.18.07 at 10:32 AM [permalink]
I was taught international security by Stephan Halper a few years back - "as rants go, it's an interesting rant." - absolutely.
The guy is pretty angry, he was a security advisor to the white house across four presidents (he may have managed a political campaign for George Bush Senior at one point), but fell out of politics over the iraq thing, which he is not happy about... have a feeling that would have been made clear in the book....posted by: George on 05.18.07 at 10:32 AM [permalink]
dan, i remember you saying you were reading lukacs book on kennan. did you ever post your thoughts on that? what did you think of it?posted by: pt on 05.18.07 at 10:32 AM [permalink]
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