Saturday, November 01, 2008

Book Review: Dangerous Business

Half of this book consists of the author misinterpreting the times. He identifies three trends in globalization: mercantilism (or more precisely, neo-mercantilism), elitism (in which there is a ruling class who shifts from political, economic, and cultural leadership), and corporatism, in which corporations are no longer linked to a single nation or political ideology.

He sees these trends as a result of U.S. actions--reminding us that the United States is a mixed economy--and that free trade agreements are actually political deals. (If trade were truly free, he says, an agreement could be a single sentence.) And blames the advocates of free trade for pursuing free trade policies in an environment which is anything but. That is, if you open your markets and no one else does, you're going to lose out.

His solutions are all about what the government could be doing. I believe any solution in the form "The government (or Congress, the president, etc.) should..." as meaningless. Power is devolving, diversifying, and spreading. Purely governmental solutions are simply fighting the tide. A real solution includes actions from multiple layers--as an individual, a member of various organizations, a consumer, a worker, a citizen, etc.

He's right in describing it as dangerous business (and many of his illustrations are frightening and enlightening), but he missed the depth of the problem. The difficulty goes far deeper than just the economics of globalization and what the government can do about it.



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