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am 26. April 2000
This book should have gotten five stars without a doubt. It's very readable; the author doesn't fall into the temptation of inventing new "-isms" as so many academics do. The content is extremely accurate and very well documented, with viewpoints from major historical players. Why not five stars? First, it did get a little repetitive and by the time I got to South America, the chapter seemed very predictable (let me guess, they cut spending and taxes and privatised, restricted monetary supply and killed off the evil hyperinflation dragon and everybody lived employed ever after). Second, instead of constantly giving concrete examples, the author could have examined the theoretical debates that pit free-marketeers and Keynesians against one another. The downside of free markets, both globally and domestically is not examined, despite the fact that the argumentative ammunition to bring down anti-market theories is abundant. Finally, I thought Daniel Yergin generalised a little too often when examining economic remedies. The dismal science is known as such because general assumptions in the real economic world are virtually impossible.
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am 14. Januar 2000
I was disappointed by this book, but then my expectations were very high after reading Yergin's earlier work on the history of the oil industry (5 stars!). Early on, the authors present us with a historical dilemna: the post World War II nations are distrustful of market economies and experiencing prosperity under centralized, planned economies. Yet market economies take over in a matter of decades. The authors use the strategy of a broad, global view to explain why and how -- with most of the emphasis on how. As a result, the reading is quite repetetive. The thesis is clear: market economies work best. There is almost no discussion on the limitations of market economies -- or of their social consequences. Worse, for those like myself with no background in economics, the implications of the emerging global free-market economy is virtually untouched. My advice... read "The Prize".
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am 8. Juli 1999
I'm a few pages from the end and I've loved every page of this book. A wealth of historical and economic data is lightened with personal anecdotes about or from key players on the world stage in this century. The reader from Hong Kong, presumably more familiar with Chinese history than some of us, understandably may find the China section lacking but I found the insights into the struggles for power within the CCP enlightening. This book put together information I was mostly familiar with from other sources, but weaving it all together in a balanced way, adding anecdotes and colorful details, is tremendous added value. I'm familiar with at least the titles of many works of economics mentioned and was pleased to find little-known (in the U.S.) but key works mentioned such as Hernando de Soto's El Otro Sendero. Should be required reading.
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am 4. Juli 1998
The book describes quite interestingly the development of what now has become the mainstream in political thinking, specially as to the background of the "Thatcher revolution" in the UK; the rest of the book is, however, rather thinly spread, providing a broad catalog of the changes in all regions of the world, without really providing any deep or novel insight; overall I believe the authors would have better done to focus solely on the US and the UK.
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am 15. November 1998
As someone with no formal (or even much informal) economics background, I found this book to be a reasonable synopsis of what's been happening over the last 40 years. I liked the broad coverage, and the little anecdotes told along the way kept it interesting. At the same time, it did get a bit repetitive, and the authors' opinions about the strength of the Asian economies were a little hard to believe given the current circumstances.
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am 18. Januar 1998
Daniel Yergin provides the reader extraordinary insight into contemporary globalization. In a masterful, sweeping work that encompasses economic and social history of the post-war era, Yergin (who won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Prize," his study of the oil industry) and his co-author Joseph Stanislaw help us understand how economies around the world, but especially in the third world, are abandoning the old faith in big government and are embracing the marketplace. But Yergin and Stanislaw also warn that the marketplace -- laissez-faire -- is fraught with perils for countries that don't have sound governance and indigenous institutions and entrepreneurs who are able to function responsibly in an increasingly interdependent world. I found the book's analysis particularly lucid; the chronology at the end, which details the evolution of economic theory as well as cites political trends, should be especially useful to students. This is a book I'd recommend highly for laymen and scholars alike.
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am 29. April 1999
An excellent read. This book was informative, interesting, sense-making, and thought provoking. What more can you ask for? Particularly from an economics book! I recommend it, particularly to the general reader with scant economics in his or background (like me). Two objections: was it necessary to include so many countries in the analyis and discussion? The going slowed a little after the third or fourth "tiger" or South American example. Second, the authors make a compelling argument for free markets, but slight the down side, although the George Shultz quote, page 374, with the authors' elaboration offer a nod in that direction; and in closing the authors fairly note criteria by which the open market could be judged in the future: does it deliver the goods; ensure fairness; uphold national identity; protect the environment. Big picture history at its most insightful.
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am 19. März 1998
After Daniel Yergin's fascinating books on the oil industry (read it!)and on Russia, Commanding Heights was a big disappointment. Any reader who has a decent newspaper would know most of the story of the shift in the last thirty years from state planning and intervention to the free market. Although if history is what you are after, the story of this transition in different parts of the world is well told. What is missing is (1) any explanation of why this all happened and (2) any coherent view of what is likely to happen next -are we going to shift back again or is the intellectual revolution set for a long while. One needs (1) to come up with (2) and Yergin and Stanislaw do not tackle either. PS: The chapter on China was particularly weak.
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am 24. März 1999
A lucid overview describing the rise to capitalism of Third World nations. When was the last time you read an economics book with continuing interest? The authors accomplish this by telling the stories through the biographies of the prime leader in each of the countries. The disturbing conclusion is that many of these gains were achieved with large disregard of human rights; Chile as a prime example. Although I'm sure the authors did'nt intend it, they appear to give tacit approval to questionable aphorism: that "The end justifies the means".
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Yeargin creates an easily understandable context for the fast changing economic news unfolding daily. It is compelling reading...hard to put down. Valuable for both students of government & world affairs as well as investors, Yeargin's commentary unfolds country by country, continent by continent, in much the same style as a Mitchener novel. I enjoyed the book immensly and would recommend it highly.
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