A lot of energy is spent every election season arguing about the economy. Sure, there are plenty of political issues, but most of them are pretty simple. They’re beliefs. But economics is a science, even if, as it is subtitled in Dani Rodrik’s new book, it is sometimes called ‘the dismal science’. We all want everyone to have a good job, to make a living they can raise a family with, to be able to afford a home and other basic necessities, but knowing how to make that happen? That’s considerably more difficult. Oftentimes, we resort to ‘common sense’ solutions, only to find them blowing up in our faces time and time again. That’s because, as Rodrik’s Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science makes abundantly clear, economies are vast, complex things that often resist the obvious solutions. Thankfully, Rodrik’s book is meant to give a basic primer on how economists operate, what kinds of mistakes economists make, and what it all means for you.
Around the world, having some kind of religious faith is an experience common among the majority. In particular, those that affiliate with Catholicism are spread far and wide around the world, but all come under the leadership of the Pope. While the Pope is commonly known to be the head and leading authority in the Catholic Church, that is an image associated with leading the flock to follow God. But who knew he was head of the Vatican Bank as well. Surprisingly, the Catholic Church is an institution with vast financial holdings that extend far beyond Vatican city and local Catholic churches. While the image of the church is one replete with icons, statutes, colorful paintings and robed priests, the underbelly of this institution is far less holy and its finances are littered with crime and amoral behavior.
Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles, by Ruchir Sharma is about the nations that are making the competitive leap to becoming new world players. This is not so much of a surprise actually, that some developing countries are “getting it,” and they are beginning to pull themselves up “by the bootstraps”. The surprise is that so many countries are now doing it, and that there will soon be a new perspective on what a developing nation is, does and can manage in the world economy going forward. Sharma is quite knowledgeable on this topic. The view finder is definitely through the eyes of a capable investor, but the reader will follow along anxiously to see who does what, why it’s happened and form a critical opinion regarding which breakout nations have in effect “broken
I thought it would be interesting to read a history of economic theory given the economic challenges we face today. Sylvia Nasar’s Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius certainly fits the history bill. Nasar provides an in-depth survey of economic theory and the people who devised them. The book opens in Dickensian London and ends in present day India. Nasar profiles many of the heavy hitters in economic theory from Marx, Keynes, Hayek to Schumpter and Friedman. I liked some of the interesting personal background information provided for each of the economists but much of the time I wanted Nasar to get to the point more quickly.
Sylvia Nasar won a National Book Critics Circle award for her 1998 book, A Beautiful Mind, which was a biography of economist John Nash. The interconnected stories in
Reviewed by Caleb Shadis
Who Owns the World was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought the book would be a narrated almanac or a list of facts followed by the author’s interpretations of the stats given about land ownership across the world. Instead, we are presented with the author’s poorly disguised agenda.
If you skip Part I Overview and Analysis, the rest of the book is an interesting almanac with lots of information and usually a quick piece of trivia about each country. However, if you actually read the first section, Cahill has a grand view