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The Commanding Heights

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The Commanding Heights

The Battle between Government and the Marketplace That is Remaking the Modern World

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

It’s been half a decade since government began expanding it’s influence on national economies, but the tide has turned in the battle for the “commanding heights.”

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The second half of the 20th century was marked by the ebb and flow of government influence over national and international economies. Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw characterize the balance between government and private marketplace clout as a battle for the commanding heights of the economy. They trace this fight back to the years after World War II, where they discover that capitalism had been widely discredited and governments were basking in the glow of wartime victory. With descriptions of the catalytic people and events that moved markets and policy, Yergin and Stanislaw have turned an essentially academic topic into a readable book, which is as much about economics as it is about history. As engaging as the stories are, don’t assume you’re in for a light read. Many business books today have plenty of sizzle, but not much steak. getAbstract recommends that you sink your teeth into this big, juicy T-bone of a book, a rare treat for intellectual readers searching for economic adventure and substantive history.


World War II Fallout

In July 1945, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill met in Potsdam to plan the final act and the aftermath of World War II. After nine days, Churchill interrupted the meeting to return home for the British general election. He assumed he would be able to return quickly to the negotiating table. Instead, capitalizing on fears of a return to the unemployment and deprivation of the 1930s, the Labor Party won in a landslide. Clement Attlee replaced Churchill as prime minister. When Attlee took Churchill’s place in Potsdam, Stalin was confused, as though the switch was some type of trick. (Stalin’s foreign minister even asked Attlee why Churchill wouldn’t have "fixed" the election results.)

Attlee and the Labor Party launched programs that began a new era in which governments attempted to gain control of the commanding heights of their national economies. While they permitted some privatization, a state-owned sector controlled key industries such as railroads, utilities and telecommunications. Labor established and legitimized this "mixed economy" model. Strong, direct government involvement arrived in the form of fiscal management policies...

About the Authors

Daniel Yergin  is the Pulitzer-winning author of The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. He also wrote Shattered Peace , and co-authored Energy Future and Russia 2010 and What it Means for the World. Joseph Stanislaw , president of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, is a leading adviser on international markets and politics.

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