Monday, July 2, 2007

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July's Books of the Month

This month's international relations book is John Nye's War, Wine, and Taxes: The Political Economy of Anglo-French Trade, 1689-1900. Nye takes on the standard narrative about trade liberalization in the 19th century, which asserts that everyting started with Great Britain's repeal of the Corn Laws. Instead, he points out that France was in many (though not all) ways a more economy until 1890. If this sounds like an arcane dispute, it's not to those who study the global political economy. The events of the 19th century form the basis of hegemonic stability theory (HST). HST is to the global political economy as the Keynesian IS-LM model is to macroeconomics -- everyone knows that the theory is at best incomplete and at worst internally inconsistent, but it's usually the first model out of the toolbox to explain change.

Nye then goes on to examine the history of British commercial policy up to the Corn Laws repeal, explaining why Great Britain practiced a form of targeted mercantilism in wine and spirits for centuries. Along the way, he challenges the conventional poli sci (North and Weingast 1989) read of events like the Glorious Revolution. In so doing, he demonstrates conditions under which protectionism and trade liberalization can actually build on each other.

Nye does a good job of challenging the old school international political economy (Gilpin and Krasner), though he seems unaware of more recent work on this era that gives France its proper due in the liberalization of the 19th century (Art Stein and David Lazer, for examples). Nevertheless, I concur with Tyler Cowen -- this is a very important work of economic history.

The general interest book covers a topic near and dear to my heart -- Joyce Antler's You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother. For a taste of the book, check out Slate's slide show summary of Antler's argument. As Emily Bazelon observes:

The Jewish mother's greatest act of sacrifice, perhaps, is to be the gift that keeps on giving: first to generations of male writers like [Philip] Roth, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, and then to female ones like Wendy Wasserstein and Sarah Silverman.
If you don't buy this book, it's OK. I'm sure your mother would understand... while she sits alone in her kitchen.... thinking of nothing but your happiness.

posted by Dan on 07.02.07 at 08:46 AM


Query: ?more [open?] economy

The American Founding Fathers famously heavy drinkers, which continued through the early decades of the nineteenth century. I'm curious, was alcohol production of similarly major importance in Britain and the continent?

posted by: Bill Harshaw on 07.02.07 at 08:46 AM [permalink]

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