Alan Beattie, "False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World"
Riverhead Books | 2009 | ISBN: 1594488665 | 335 pages | siPDF | 5 MB
An important book for turbulent times—an accessible and engaging economic history of the world, by a leading economic writer.
Alan Beattie has long been intrigued by the fates of different countries, economies, and societies—why some fail and some succeed. Here, he weaves together elements of economics, history, politics, and human stories, revealing that societies, economies, and countries usually make concrete choices that determine their destinies. He opens up larger questions about these choices, and why countries make them or are driven to make them, and what those decisions can mean for the future of our global economy.
Economic history involves forcing together disciplines that fall naturally in different directions. But Beattie has written a lively and lucid book that successfully marries the two subjects and illustrates their interdependence. In doing so, he addresses such illuminating queries as: Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth? Why did Argentina fail and the United States succeed? Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
False Economy explains how human beings have shaped their own fates, however unknowingly, and the conditions of the countries they call home. And though it is history, it does not end with the present day. Beattie shows how decisions that are being made now—which have either absorbed or failed to absorb the lessons from economic history—will determine what happens in the future. What does economic history teach us about the present economic unrest? Who will succeed and why? And who will fail? These are questions that we cannot afford to leave unasked... or unanswered.
From Publishers Weekly
Financial Times world trade editor Beattie combines economic history, psychology and political analysis to identify the factors that predispose economies to sickness or health.
The author takes a human interest, Freakonomics-style approach to such economic riddles as why Islamic nations stay mired in poverty (he argues that one reason might be the Qur'an's dictum against usury and interest-earning) and why Africa is dependent on exporting raw materials rather than commercial products (soaring temperatures and shoddy infrastructure).
Beattie imbues economics with wonderful mystery as he untangles the mechanisms of the blood diamond trade and Peru's curious stranglehold on the global export of asparagus. Closer to home, Beattie examines the economic rivalry between Argentina and the United States a century ago; when Argentina seemed to be winning, the U.S. made a series of crucial decisions, moved forward and left Argentina poised for financial disaster.
Thorough research, eclectic examples and a sprightly tone (Puritans were not big on bling) should make this a hit among those interested in world economics—and a must-read alternative for those who couldn't get through Guns, Germs and Steel.
From The Washington Post
Pop social science—think Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point—is tricky. Authors risk sacrificing the intricacies of scholarship in the service of reader-friendly anecdotes. But Alan Beattie, the world-trade editor at the Financial Times and a former economist for the Bank of England, resists this kind of reduction in False Economy, a thorough examination of economies from the age of empire to the age of the IMF.
Standing proudly against psychology, dialectical materialism and inevitability, Beattie writes, "History is not determined by fate.... It is determined by people." He insists that it is not destiny but the right and wrong decisions by political leaders that cause societies to rise and fall.
Beattie's analysis dazzles with particulars: He explains why Africa doesn't grow cocaine (poor infrastructure), why Peru grows most of the asparagus consumed in the United States (good lobbyists), and why pandas (whose diet is almost exclusively bamboo) and command economies (which can function only under inefficient bureaucracies) are endangered by inflexibility.
A lover of Adam Smith's invisible hand, Beattie criticizes protectionist mollycoddling of inefficient industries. But despite his generally conservative outlook, his far-reaching history is grounded in a curiously Obama-esque, populist belief that open markets guided by modest, business-friendly policies can guide us through the current economic downturn—that, as Shakespeare put it, "our remedies oft in ourselves do lie."
Beattie worked as an economist at the Bank of England and then joined the Financial Times in 1998 and is currently the paper’s world-trade editor. This is not a criticism of the 2004–07 real-estate debacle that caused the collapse of U.S. and world financial systems, as might be surmised by the title, but rather a historical glimpse at the causes and effects that explain why some economies prosper in certain ways while others do not.
Beattie contrasts the economies of Argentina and the U.S., for example, showing why Argentina has prospered even while our economic downturn has seemingly brought down the economies of the rest of the world. He compares the ancient city of Rome to present-day large metropolises; explains how trade routes and climate (both political and meteorological) affect where crops are grown and how they are processed; and looks at some of the idiosyncrasies of corruption and power.
By looking back to look forward, Beattie concludes that the experience of history provides hope that we have the ability to make the right choices going forward.
Tags: qEconomics, qHistory, qGlobalization, WorldPolitics
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