Friday, August 8, 2008

The Commanding Heights

This book covers the transition to market economy in most of the world in the late 70s and 80s after the failure of Keynesian interventionist policies. Notably absent in this story is Africa. Each chapter covers a region (Eastern Europe for example) or country (Great Britain) and relates the process in which the transformation to market economy takes place. It was fairly entertaining except that it was written in a tone that reminds me of a narrator on TV. (Of course, it was made for TV on PBS and makes me wonder which came first.) What I found really irritating was the phrase "commanding heights" was repeated much too often. It reminded me of a TV ad that keeps repeating its 800 number.

The cautions despite the success of capitalism, from page 404:
Yet, whatever the transformations in the world economy, an underlying mistrust of the market persists. Why? George Schultz pointed to one reasone when he said, "Markets are relentless." As competition becomes more intense, here is no respite from its pressures. People turn to government to provide shelter from the constant demands of the market. The move to the market may bring a higher standard of living, ... But it also brings new insecurities - about unemployment, about the durability of jobs and the stress of the workplace, about the loss of protection from the vicissitues of life, about the environment, about the unraveling of the safety net, about health care and what happens in old age.

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