Rothkopf (Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making, 2009, etc.) uses a wide-angle lens to examine the relation between public and private power.
The author compares various models of capitalist functioning for insight into their relative rates of success—the U.S. “government-lite” opposition to big government; China's top-down state control; the more democratic “statist” version offered by India and Brazil; a European model, derived primarily from Sweden and Germany; and one based on such commercially successful small states as Israel, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Comparing models, the author separates successful economies from the near successful, the failing and the failed, and he compares countries and public institutions to the private sector—Wal-Mart, Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and dozens of others. Rothkopf adds historical context with his account of one of the oldest companies in the world, Sweden's Stora, which began as a mining venture in the 1200s and has endured under different names for centuries. Sweden and Stora's mines were vital to the outcome of both the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, the concluding settlement of which signaled the victory of the nation-state. In Rothkopf's view, the world has shifted from a “battle between capitalism and Communism to something even more complex: a battle between differing forms of capitalism in which the distinction between each is in the relative role and responsibilities of public and private sectors.” The extremes of both Soviet communism and free-market financial “overreach” have been discredited. American capitalism initially triumphed but has receded, and competition between different capitalisms will continue.
Rothkopf delivers a lively, accessible treatment of a multifaceted, complex subject.