Rating

6

Qualities

  • Comprehensive
  • For Experts

Recommendation

Economic empires, like their political or military counterparts, tend to sow the seeds of their own destruction once they’ve reached their peaks. From those lofty heights, arrogance, changing consumption patterns, altered social expectations and, ultimately, a reversion to government to keep the financial engine going, all foretell an inevitable decline. So says Colin Read, an economics professor at the State University of New York, in his ambitious treatise on economic empires. He offers a thorough, if disordered, trip through economic history, while critiquing the problems of global empire. Though his text is challenging in its density and breadth but short on solutions, it is a solid introduction for students of economic history. getAbstract recommends this book mostly for an academic audience who believes that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Summary

Economic Hegemony

Economic empires no longer evolve over many generations, as they once did. Over the past 100 years, the US ousted the UK as the world’s largest economy, and soon China likely will take the title. Technology and information accelerate the pace of modern financial change, but economies still follow innate cycles and obey natural laws. For example, entrepreneurial businesses exemplify Charles Darwin’s rule on the survival of the fittest, and massive entities collapse under their own weight according to “the Law of Diminishing Returns.” All economic powerhouses are subject to this law, which states that no entity can grow too large or dominant before ultimately it falls prey to its own weaknesses. The US, which began to dominate global trade and finance after World War II, shows signs of incipient economic frailty, exemplified by the financial crisis and recession of 2008. How the world’s economies will adapt to shifting roles is uncertain, but history can provide useful lessons for the future.

In the Beginning

Economic forces are as old as mankind itself and probably predate humanity: Ants and bees establish intricate hierarchies in which they...

About the Author

Colin Read is an economics professor at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh


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