The below is a review of the unabridged CD audiobook edition of this work
Any review of this book would have to start out by stating who this book is geared to. Considering that it is published by Yale, an academic press, it is not surprising that it is really for those with a very good background in economics and international financial. That audience would have at least a BA if not greater in economics and would also follow economic, financial and related political news on a regular basis (i.e., the type of person who reads the Financial Times, The Economist, Business Week, Wall Street Journal and a major newspaper such as the NY Times or Washington Post regularly). Those who do not fit this mold would be in over their heads and probably be unable to follow this book. They would not have the requisite knowledge of economics, finance or political economy.
Ironically, despite the fact that it is geared to an audience knowledgeable in economics and finance and who follow it regularly, the book does not really say anything that a person with this background would find novel or particularly enlightening. For example, the author cites growing populism as a threat to globalization, the slowly increasing gap between the “elite” (who favor globalization) and “the common man” (who has far different views on how globalization has affected him/her), balance of payment problems, capital flow problems, etc. (ironically automation and technology are not seriously assessed) as threats to economic globalization. But is any of this really news? Nor does the author present any of this information in from any different perspective or in any other way that a knowledgeable reader on the subject would find enlightening. Hence that audience would gain little, if anything, from reading this book. Audiences without this knowledge, on the other hand, would not be able to follow the author’s discussion on topics such as balance of payment and capital flow problems, etc. The book begs the question, who exactly is it written for?
The book ends with a few recommendations on how to prevent (or at least seriously mitigate) the wave of protectionism and populism that threaten the global regime. One is to establish a balance of payment regime that automatically stabilizes balance of payment and capital flow problems, something like what Keynes recommended at Bretton Woods. However, the author himself states that Keynes’s idea was not feasible due to lack of interest on the US’s part. Considering that the US, today, has even less interest and, more importantly even less capability (as it is a much smaller percentage of world GDP) how is this possible? The author also recommends continuing immigration on a, more or less, relatively open basis. This is despite the fact that even he states in the book that this has contributed to the rise of populism in the political sphere and its associated undermining of globalization.
The most important weakness of the book, a very serious one, is the fact that it does not examine how and why globalization has grown in the post war period. There is no discussion of the importance of the belief in “free trade” ideology, of the decreasing tariff barriers to many tradeable goods (for countries in the latest GATT treaty the typical tariff is less than 2%), technologies and processes that have played major roles in decreasing the cost of transportation (i.e., containerization, air travel, etc.). All of these played major roles in the advance of globalization in the post war period yet go unmentioned. More importantly, their future impact on globalization is not mentioned. Tariffs in most tradeable goods are less than 2%, how much lower can they go? Shipping costs have become a very negligible portion of any product’s final costs. The production of just about anything that can be manufactured cheaply in a less developed country has already been moved there. Go into retail store in any developed nation and try to find something manufactured in developed nation (other than the workforce working there). One would be hard pressed. The percentage of manufactured goods being manufactured has simply reached a saturation point.
Of course there are other fields where it is possible to expand trade, in particular agricultural produce, human migration, trade in services like insurance, but considering the many barriers existing how can this practically be done? Anti-immigration political movements will prevent any more treaties permitting free labor movement (at least from the less developed to the developed nations). The less developed nations have no incentive to open up their markets to services if the developed do not reciprocate by opening up their markets to agricultural products and/labor. This is what has prevented advances in free trade in these fields in the post war period to begin with. Why would the future be any different, especially considering the immense population growth in many parts of the less advanced world, something that even the author points out? It seems that globalization has reached an asymptotic limit yet the author is oblivious to the factors why.
In short, a 2-3-star book for most readers. With respect to the audiobook, it is relatively well read (4-star performance by the reader). It is never monotone or lacking enthusiasm and it does have a tone (and British accent) appropriate to the material. However, it cannot make up for the book’s other shortcomings.
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (15 May 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300218044
- ISBN-13: 978-0300218046
- Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16 x 2.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 260,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)