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Democracy and the Future of the World Economy

by Dani Rodrik

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-393-07161-0
Publisher: Norton

An economist’s idealistic proposal to take some of the global out of globalization.

In the wake of the subprime-mortgage crisis and worldwide economic downturn, most readers will agree with the author’s premise that globalization, and in particular financial globalization, is not all it’s cracked up to be. Rodrik (International Political Economy/Harvard Univ.; One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth, 2007, etc.) submits that there’s a better way of doing business, one that coalesces as he presents his theory that the world economy boils down to a triangular game of give-and-take. The author defines three key elements of the world economy—hyperglobalization (unfettered trade and financial exchange), democracy and the nation state—that he contends cannot all simultaneously coexist. However, he writes, we should aim for two out of three. Rodrik argues that the least important element in terms of the world’s economic, social and political health is globalization itself, noting that economic models predict only minimal net gain from the continued lowering of international barriers. He suggests furthering worldwide democratization and strengthening, not weakening, governmental intervention to provide an effective framework that preserves local values and protects domestic economies while paving the way for relatively—but not completely—free economic and financial interaction. His arguments are often effective, if occasionally overly simplistic, though at times it’s difficult to pinpoint his audience. He acknowledges that any economist worth his salt is fully cognizant of the perils of globalization, which often ignored in public forums, yet his economic arguments may sail over the heads of lay readers despite attempts to simplify the concepts. A trite closing parable, rather than reinforcing his salient points, simply underscores how messy and complicated reality is in comparison to even the most elegant proposed solutions.

Not an ideal blueprint, but Rodrik raises—and gamely tries to answer—some important questions.