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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brain Calisthenics

Yes, this is my roadside bouquet, mentioned yesterday. But now, to get into books--

I've been reading a lot of economics in the last few years. Is that a sign of age or a philosopher's foible? Here's a short list of books I've found insightful: Amy Chua, WORLD ON FIRE: HOW EXPORTING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY BREEDS ETHNIC HATRED AND GLOBAL INSTABILITY; George Soros, THE CRISIS OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM; ONE MARKET UNDER GOD, by Thomas Frank. There was another (very old) book called THE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND, but that has vanished from my stack. Top of the heap these days is EVERYTHING FOR SALE: THE VIRTUES AND LIMITS OF MARKETS, by Robert Kuttner.

Kuttner is like the other contemporary writers in my list in that he believes in democracy and believes in capitalism but doesn't buy the myth current in our land that the best form of capitalism possible would be "pure" (think Ayn Rand here), with no role for government beyond that of policeman. I will not pretend to summarize his views. His arguments are complex and detailed. They are, however, written for lay readers, not academics, and they are perfectly clear to the reader who is willing to do some mental work. (This is no popular magazine article to be breezed in half an hour.) Published in 1996, is this book still relevant? That question was put to me in conversation, and my answer is a resounding "Yes!" The simplistic theory the author demolishes so carefully and painstakingly is still very much around and has, I would say, passed from university classrooms into American mythology. It begs to be challenged.

I read this book in short, intense, thoughtful doses, turning at bedtime to less rigorous reading.

Should mention that the skies cleared yesterday for the Tour de Leelanau and that yesterday's sunshine is repeating itself today. It is a glorious day for hanging clothes out on the line, visiting horses, putting a garden to bed, or anything that involves getting outdoors.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

To add another book/author to your economics reading, I propose David Korten, who was recently featured in an interview in the left-leaning The Sun, and whose books include When Corporations Rule the World;The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism; The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. The interview was titled, "Everybody Rules the World: Putting an End to Global Competition." High time to find a new way to live in the world community.