The institutional economics of filial piety

Somewhat lost in the past few weeks amidst the massive uprisings in the Middle East are two interesting bits of news coming out of China. First, As Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution blogs here, a proposal submitted by the Civil Affairs Ministry to the State Council calls for legally mandated visits by adult children to their parents. Parents would be allowed to sue children that fail to make the required visits. The second piece of news relates to promotion procedures within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): as the Guardian notes here, a CCP county branch in the northern Hebei province rather controversially began to consider filial piety as an additional metric for officials seeking promotion, with interviews of family and relatives being used to assess whether or not officials have neglected their filial duties to their parents.

Both of these news items seem to suggest a resurgence in the concept of filial piety, which has governed Chinese family life and society for millenia. However, they in fact demonstrate the degree to which the institution of filial piety has eroded, and the failure of an alternative institution to emerge. Let use some concepts from economics to help us understand exactly how filial piety affects society today.

First, it is useful to think about parent-child interaction in terms of contracts and property rights. There are two pieces of property for which we must assign ownership here: the decision-making authority over the child, and responsibility for the parent’s livelihood after the child has reached adulthood. With these two variables in mind, it is easy to see that “Eastern” filial piety is essentially a contractual arrangement that: a) confers the parent the decision-making authority over the child and b) assigns the responsibility for the parent’s livelihood upon the adult child. In contrast, we can characterize what we will simply call the “Western” parent-child relationship as an arrangement in which ownership of these two variables belongs to the child rather than the parent, that is, the adult child retains decision-making authority over him- or herself, and the parent must provide for his or her own livelihood even when the child has reached adulthood.

Now let us turn our attention to what types of socioeconomic institutions might arise in conjunction with these basic family-level arrangements. Which arrangement is more conducive to the development of a social safety net? We can think of social safety nets as a form of insurance which allows individuals to pool the risks of providing for themselves after retirement. It is easy to see that under Eastern filial piety, children already serve this role, being obliged to provide for their parents once they reach adulthood. On the other hand, the Western system is provides no such option, and is thus more conducive to the formation of social safety nets.

We now consider the game theoretical implications of the above. What does the institution of filial piety have in common with which side of the road we drive on, or what keyboard layout we use? The answer is that all three represent examples of the coordination game. Consider a simple two-player, two-stategy game. Such a game is termed a coordination game if there exist two pure Nash equilibria, where both players pick the same strategy. Generalized to the many-player, society-level case, which corresponds to the situations we’re considering here, it means that equilibrium exists where all members of a society behave the same way. It never pays to unilaterally behave differently. For example, because an American drives on the right side of the road; it would not be in his or her interest to unilaterally drive on the right side of the road. However, a British person drives on the left side of the road, and faces no incentive to deviate from doing so. Similarly, we have adopted QWERTY as the standard keyboard layout, but we could just as well adopted any other, so long as society collectively chooses to do so at the same time – the key is that no individual faces an incentive to deviate. Moreover, we notice that these social arrangements – right-side driving, QWERTY – are path dependent: once society has adopted one standard, it all but precludes adoption of another.

How is the parent-child relationship characterized by a coordination game? Under Eastern filial piety, aged parents are cared for by their adult children rather than a social safety net. No single parent has the incentive to give up his “rights” over his child. Under the Western system, with the social safety net in place, parents need not rely on children for their livelihoods in old age and thus face less incentive to dominate them. Both equilibria, Eastern and Western, are self-reinforcing.

And thus we have our conclusion. The institution of filial piety, as horrible as it may seem to those who decry the “Tiger Mother” syndrome, is self-reinforcing. No generation has the rational incentive to deviate from this system. The two news stories referenced above point to a society in flux: modernization, urbanization, and globalization has given the younger generation greater capacity to resist parental control and provided them a glimpse of an alternate system with greater individual autonomy in childhood and fewer responsibilities in adulthood. The may even expect the crutch of the social safety net to be in place by the time they reach old age. However, because that crutch does not yet exist, the older generation is fighting back, with the help of a government reluctant to take up the responsibility of providing that crutch. We have not heard the last of filial piety and inter-generational conflict in China yet.

Posted in freakonomics, politics & economics, society & culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lu Xun and game theory, or insane rationality and the evolutionary stability of backward tradition

How do we model irrationality? In economics, the attempt to reconcile seemingly irrational behavior with assumptions of rationality has gained increasing attention in the wake of the financial crisis, whose speculative bubble was reinforced by what John Cassidy calls “rational irrationality.” But in fact, exercises in modeling irrationality have produced valuable insights in a wide variety of subfields. For instance, the preference falsification theory developed by Timur Kuran (see here for some high praise from the high priest of econ-blogging, Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen) explains why individuals publicly support privately undesirable cultural norms, and how this damages private knowledge and restricts innovation in the long term.

Adopting a similar mode of analysis, let us examine “A Madman’s Diary” (『狂人日記』, Project Gutenberg full text available here), the debut work of the so-called father of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun (魯迅). In this 1918 short story – as in many others – Lu Xun lambastes the backward traditional values that governed life and thought in early Republican China. The titular “madman” fears that he will be cannibalized by the rest of his village, reading murderous intent in the gazes of his neighbors and the words of his brother. Meanwhile, we infer that he is treated with derision by the rest of the village, and with pity by his borther. The story ends with the memorable line “Save the children…” (“救救孩子”), but we learn in the story’s introduction that the madman has long since been rehabilitated. Of course, the madman symbolizes a fledgling modernity that is eventually quashed, cannibalism the Confucian values that had reigned in China for 4000 years, and the other villagers the passively conservative masses with their malevolent aversion toward change.

How does this relate to our talk of rationally explaining irrationality? With the help of game theory, I contend that the situation in the village – and the backward situation in early Republican China – can be modeled as a case of dual Nash equilibria. Let us derive a payoff matrix for the village in Lu Xun’s tale, with the individual being the horizontal player and the rest of the village being the vertical one. The strategies for the villager are to consider his neighbors to be “Normal” or “Cannibals.” The strategies for the rest of the village are to consider the villager “Normal” or “Insane.” Below is the payoff matrix:

Rest of village
Normal Insane
Villager Normal a, w b, y
Cannibals c, x d, z

It is easy to see that for the villager,

a > b and
d > c

That is, he will consider others to be normal if they treat him normally, but as cannibals if they treat him as if he were insane. Similarly for the rest of the village,

w > x and
z > y

That is, they will consider the villager to be normal if he behaves as if they were normal, but insane if he behaves as if he thought they were cannibals.

We thus have the two Nash equilibria italicized in the payoff matrix above: (Normal, Normal) and (Cannibals, Insane). The situation is mutually self-reinforcing. When the villagers treat you normally, you act normally; when the villagers treat you as if you were insane, you think they are cannibals. Similarly, when you act normally, the villagers treat you normally; when you think the villagers are cannibals, they treat you as if you were insane.

The situation is disturbingly analagous to that of Lu Xun’s real word, early Republican China. Consider the following payoff matrix:

Society
Normal Ostracize
Individual Conservative a, w b, y
Modern c, x d, z

We have the same result of symmetrical Nash equilibria. A conservative individual is treated as normal by society, and therefore embraces society; a modern individual is ostracized because he is modern, and therefore decries society as backward.

Now let us extend the analysis using the concept of evolutionary stability. We will approach the issue by considering a game of two individuals, as drawn up below. First, note that we are in a society in which the predominant strategy of the population holds traditional values – that is, the predominant strategy is currently “Conservative.” This is noted in the matrix with the italicized square for (Conservative, Conservative). Is this universal conservatism evolutionarily stable?

Conservative Modern
Conservative a, a b, c
Modern c, b d, d

It is easy to rank the payoffs, because we know that consensus is always preferred to non-consensus (which leads to conflict):

a > b and
d > c

That is, the situation is a pure coordination game. We can even say d > a – that a modern society is better than a conservative one – for the sake of realism, though we shall see that this does not matter.

Given the existing situation of (Conservative, Conservative) evolutionarily stable? It is easy to see that the answer is yes; (Conservative, Conservative) is indeed evolutionarily stable. A mutant who chooses to be Modern will always be quashed by the Conservative majority; it matters not whether an outcome of (Modern, Modern) is preferable to (Conservative, Conservative) because the proportion of Conservative individuals is so high. Modernism will always be the tenet of a doomed minority.

Hence we learn valuable lesson from our analysis of Lu Xun’s story, and, by proxy, backward traditional China. It is irrational to adopt modern values when those around you hold traditional ones, even if the world would be a better place if everyone adopted modern values; were you to do so, you would be a “madman.”

Posted in arts, freakonomics, history, politics & economics, society & culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portrait of a moderate fanatic

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
– Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Chapter I

Abdul Salam Zaeef’s My Life With the Taliban (ed. Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, Columbia University Press, 2010) is not simply a memoir of his time with the Taliban; it is an autobiography with a strong dose of political philosophy. We see Zaeef’s life in four parts: refugee, rebel, bureaucrat, and prisoner. In all four parts, the narrative, colored by the lens of Zaeef’s political philosophy, is marked by the struggle of individual agency in the face of structural forces.

Born in Southern Afghanistan, Zaeef’s transitory childhood was largely shaped by familial circumstance and regional history. In a sense, it is a story of displacement: hailing from a well-educated clerical family but poor and orphaned at an early age, Zaeef largely relied on his Pashtun tribo-familial networks for his upbringing. Throughout these trying times, Zaeef, at least in his own telling, maintains his personal agency, staying true to his moral values gaining a proper Islamic education.

Next comes the story of the rebel. It is when Zaeef writes of his halcyon mujahed days that he waxes most lyrical; he exults in the life of the teenage anti-Soviet rebel and glorifies the nascent years of the Taliban. The Taliban is not just one mujahed group among many; it is primus inter pares in its moral purity and hence its legitimacy among the people. Thus, Zaeef’s rebel days do not end with Soviet withdrawal, but continue through the Taliban’s transformation from guerrilla group to political entity. And it is here that we first see feedback between agency and structure; the individual agency of Zaeef and likeminded others causes the development of a new structural force, that of fundamentalist Islam.

We next see Abdul Salam Zaeef as the ideal bureaucrat: competent and clean, ideologically committed but reasonable, and commanding respect but averse to power. Despite his lack of training, Zaeef shows surprising competence in his leadership roles in the defense, economic, and diplomatic bureaucracies. As Deputy/acting Defense Minister and Minister of Mines and Industry, he performs in the face of numerous structural deficiencies. As Ambassador to Pakistan, he holds his ground against the ISI and all other comers despite an enormous power imbalance.

Finally, Zaeef’s story ends as the story of the prisoner. Victim of American vengeance and Pakistani connivance in the wake of 9/11, he finds himself on the receiving end of the human rights abuses that he glosses over in his account of Taliban rule. Even after his release from Guantanamo, he remains a prisoner in his own house, subject to surveillance and interference from his new, U.S.-backed overlords. It is not to say that the allegations he makes of U.S. prisoner abuse ought to be dismissed, but the main value of this final section lies not in his account of U.S. prison practices. Rather, this unfortunate end to his tale can once again be seen in the light of the structure-agency feedback loop; his time as prisoner is the consequence of malevolent structural forces beyond the control of individual Afghans.

Overarching this entire narrative is Zaeef’s political philosophy. That the Taliban’s fundamentalist brand of Islam reigns supreme here is certain; he questions not the theocracy of shari’a. There is more here, however: beneath the overarching structure of Islam, there lies highly salient Afghan nationalist and tribal identities. When he speaks of “rights,” Zaeef is often asserting the concept of national sovereignty, of which Afghanistan’s, according to Zaeef, has long been trampled upon by more powerful states, such as the United States and, above all, Pakistan. Though he claims part of the legitimacy of the Taliban to stem from its supposedly supra-tribal nature, he goes great lengths to point out that any satisfactory institutional solution in Afghanistan will have to take into account tribal identities and the accompanying traditional mechanisms of inter-tribal decision-making.

Importantly, for Zaeef, behind this tripartite system of identities lies a strong dose of realist pragmatism; he understands where other Taliban do not the structural constraints facing them. It is important to note that when he questions individual Taliban policies, such as the demolition of the Bamyan Buddhas, he does so not on normative grounds, but rather on strategic ones. Hence, the United States and other normative enemies of “terrorism” and Islamic fundamentalism should not place their hopes upon “moderates” such as Zaeef. In fact, in fact, their task would be even more difficult if facing a hypothetical Taliban consisting solely of Abdul Salam Zaeefs and other “moderates” like him, with the fight against Zaeef’s reasoned fanaticism materially intractable and perhaps even morally untenable.

Posted in book review, history, politics & economics, society & culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zero-sum conflict and its tragic consequences

And thus the desire of liberty caused one party to raise themselves in proportion as they oppressed the other. And it is the course of such movements that men, in attempting to avoid fear themselves, give others cause for fear; and the injuries which they ward off from themselves they inflict upon others, as though there were a necessity either to oppress or to be oppressed.
– Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Chapter XVI

In Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East (Nation Books, 2010), David Hirst presents a gripping history of modern Lebanon within an implicit but powerful analytical framework. The group – internal, external, Maronite, “Muslim/leftist,” Hizbullah, Zionist, the US, Iran, etc. – is the primary actor and the unit of analysis. The individual is but an agent of a group, his actions hence representative of the group as a whole, and his considerable and not unexpected error of judgment accounting for the relatively minor deviations from behavior that the group, given its set of preferences , can be seen exhibit. The state of Lebanon is the tragic setting of the conflict between groups; it is the output, the dependent variable of the analysis, so to speak. In this case, the conflict between groups is a zero-sum game, one in which the advance of the one actor’s interests must necessarily be accompanied by the deterioration of another’s. The conflict that racks Lebanon to this day is thus the only possible outcome of mutually incompatible objectives and means. Hirst’s book is thus less about Lebanon itself than about Lebanon as the battleground of conflict in the Middle East.

An important implication is that each of the many internal and external factors – among them, sectarian politics, the (post)colonialist drawing-up of artificial states, the Cold War, and, not least, Zionist aggression – Hirst outlines is a necessary but not sufficient cause of Lebanon’s tragic fate, namely, that without any one of the factors, say, for instance, Israeli expansionism – perhaps his favorite factor –, the Lebanese civil war would not have occurred, but no single factor alone would have led to the same outcome without the presence of every single one of the others; such is the nature of zero-sum conflict.

Hirst’s analysis has greater implications for the region as a whole. When the game is zero-sum, institutionalist “cooperation” serves not to achieve Pareto optimality, but rather to move along the Pareto frontier; it is inevitably about relative rather than mutual gains, and actors submit to institutional process only when unilateral action and aggression is too costly to contemplate. The Palestinian “peace process” will thus remain one where the participants put the emphasis on the “process” rather than the “peace,” and any hint of a conclusion must necessarily lead an actor to pull out because it will be able to achieve a better outcome unilaterally than through an imposed “peace.”
It is difficult to reconcile the above analytical framework and implications, which so befit the history that Hirst writes, with his conclusions. When Hirst deems as outrageously immoral Israel’s realism and details with sadomasochistic relish its worst abuses, he is implicitly arguing not that Israeli means are unbefitting of its preferred ends, but that the ends are evil; when he claims that Hizbullah’s means were those of an oppressed minority, and its military capabilities all but explicitly celebrated, he is implicitly adjudging its motives just. In other words, when he makes these claims, Hirst is not an impartial observer of the conflict in Lebanon; he is a partisan, a sectarian with preferences that run counter those of some of its major actors. This sectarianism renders his normative conclusions useless in practical terms; his implicit counterfactual argument – that were Israel and the West not meddling in Lebanese affairs, it would not be the violent battleground that it remains today – is in fact invalid because his counterfactual antecedent is not cotenable with the facts and theory, as summarized in the above analytical framework, on which he makes this inference in the first place.

A conclusion, not so powerful and even less controversial, but more appropriate, is simply that the Middle Eastern question is not one that can be resolved to the satisfaction of all, or even most, of its current disputants. It is not even one, like the twin questions of state capitalism and post-crisis capitalist reconfiguration, on which the relevant actors can even begin to move in the same direction. Should we be resigned to intractable conflict in the Middle East, with small state Lebanon as its battleground? At least until exogenous changes – be they demographic, ideological, military, economic, or whatever else – lead to the realignment of preferences of at least one of the conflict’s primary actors or fundamentally, irrevocably alter the balance of power between them, the above analytical framework would certainly suggest so. Even when these changes render conclusion possible, we must be prepared for a result that will in all likelihood be deeply, agonizingly tragic from the present standpoint of at least some those involved.

Posted in book review, history, politics & economics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Beijing Consensus? Not quite.

In The Beijing Consensus: How China’s Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the Twenty-first Century (Basic Books, 2010), Stefan Halper’s thesis is this: China’s rise, and increasing engagement on the world stage, is in essence neither a military nor material challenge to the primacy of the United States and the West; rather, it is an ideological (“ideational”) challenge – the titular Beijing Consensus is a political philosophy fundamentally incompatible with the tenets of Enlightenment-derived political liberalism to which the Western world subscribes, and it is one that holds increasing sway in the hearts and minds of many in the developing world today. Beijing’s engagement on the international stage is marked by two hard rules – the separation of business and politics and the sanctity of sovereignty (which overrides the former) –; these rules of engagement are inevitable given the domestic political economy that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) faces today. Given these conditions, China fits neither the “panda basher” narrative nor the “panda hugger” one; it does not seek to foment direct military or economic conflict with the United States, but nevertheless indirectly threatens the values of political freedom and individual liberty that the United States and other liberal societies hold so dear. In order to counter this ideological threat, Washington must approach the China challenge holistically rather piecemeal as is currently the case, but it must do so in the context of an increasingly multipolar world where multilateral action is necessary and solely bilateral engagement is counterproductive. The Beijing Consensus is thus an ambitious book that aims to identify China’s grand strategy, analyze its impact, pinpoint its determinants, and propose a suitable U.S. response, all in the space of 250 pages. In its bold ambition, the book regretfully succumbs to shallow analysis that exposes holes in its grand narrative if not detracting from its central thesis.

First, in assessing China’s impact in the rest of the developing world, Halper falls into the familiar trap of delusional neocolonialist mythology – that Western engagement in Africa and Latin America fosters development and democracy on the continent, and that it does so more than Chinese engagement does. Though he is careful to point out the historical failures and hypocrisies of Western aid and trade – from Cold War containment to the Washington Consensus to the propping up of resource states –, he asserts that the West today is finally treating Africa in a more benevolent, positive manner than ever before. However, as a large and continually growing literature attests, Western aid and trade has often and continually does more harm than good economically, and that no sustainable liberal democracy has arisen due to external pressure alone. In light of this empirical evidence, the counterfactual “China Effect” argument that Africa and Latin America would develop and democratize better without Chinese presence is highly dubious.

More salient to Halper’s thesis are the existing liberal democracies in China’s periphery. And here, due to his over-exaggerated dichotomy of Western versus Eastern values, Halper misses the point. The case of these liberal democracies matters on two fronts: first, the threat posed to them by China, and second, the political economy of their development. Lost in Halper’s discussion of Cross-Straits, Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, and even Sino-Indian dynamics is the reality that whereas it is difficult to say that democracy would blossom in authoritarian states without Chinese influence, it is not difficult to argue that China’s desire for an “area of denial” and “string of pearls” along with its pseudo-historical expansionist claims present threat to the security, stability, integrity, and – in the case of Taiwan – existence of multiple liberal democracies that grace the Pacific Rim. Moreover, the history of democratic development in Korea and Taiwan casts doubt on Halper’s argument that popular demand for democracy will not arise in China. Halper astutely points out that popular criticism of government and society in China today is focused on breakdowns of order and harmony such as corruption and inequality; it poses no direct challenge to the prevailing statist political philosophy. However, he does not recognize that this was absolutely true in Korea and Taiwan until the mid-1980s as well, in societies that were even more Confucian and traditionalist than China is (Confucianism was and remains a central tenet in KMT political philosophy) – see, for instance, the Wildfire Collection (Yehuoji, 野火集), a remarkable and era-defining series of essays published in the 1980s by the influential essayist and cultural luminary Lung Ying-tai (龍應台). Despite, or perhaps because of this delayed democratization push, liberal democracy and liberal governance, despite growing pains, remains strong in Korea and Taiwan today, by any metric just as strong or arguably stronger than, say, Italy or Greece (this is most impressive in Taiwan, where even a Chinese Confucian-nationalist-reunificationist ruling party has not dared to directly challenge the principles of democratic governance). Halper is correct that demand for political freedom is not an inevitable product of a growing middle class (witness Singapore), but he presents no convincing evidence that such demand will not arise as it did under similar conditions in other East Asian polities.

Better handled is Halper’s discussion on Washington’s response. He correctly identifies the fractured nature of U.S. policy discussion on China, succinctly summarizing the positions of the various “panda bashing” and “panda hugging” groups and pointing out that they all suffer from the tendency to view the debate over Washington’s response as one of engagement versus containment. I would add, through personal experience working in the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, that, the engagement view is winning out in diplomatic, commercial, and sometimes military policy; this presents a dangerous situation where the Washington views engagement as an end in itself while Beijing continues to extract relative gains whenever diplomatic or military engagement (what Washington likes to refer to as “cooperation”) occurs. Halper’s prescriptions to these problems are in general right on: the United States must develop a more holistic approach to China challenge, and that measures must be rooted in multilateral diplomacy of the sort that so annoys and that Washington has long undervalued. However, specific proposals, such as conceding on agricultural subsidies and engaging in de facto industrial policy, may not be possible in today’s domestic political environment.

Overall, Stefan Halper gets the big ideas right: the core challenge presented by the rise of China is an ideological one, and recognizing it as such, the liberal democratic world must respond in a holistic, multilateral manner. It is a pity that the length of his book does not give him the space to provide serious analytical support, and that he wastes space with some common misperceptions and faulty logic that afflict many Western thinkers and policymakers today.

Posted in book review, international affairs, politics & economics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Preaching to the choir

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. –Voltaire, “La Bégueule” (1772).

In The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? (Portfolio, 2010), Ian Bremmer does not in fact predict the end of the free market system; instead, he outlines the challenge posed to today’s international economic order by what he sees as a new, virulent form of economic organization that illiberal governments across the world have adopted since the end of the Cold War.

Bremmer first describes the mechanics of this form of organization, which he terms “state capitalism,” linking its fundamental objectives to those of mercantilism. Essentially, he defines state capitalism as a system in which governments view markets primarily as a strategic device used for political gain. He paints NOCs, SOEs, private “national champions,” and SWFs as the tools of state capitalism, but is careful to point out that their presence does not a state capitalist economy make. He then goes into a lengthy description of the wide spectrum of state capitalism worldwide. Walking a thin line between Economist article and corporate political risk country report, Bremmer points out the various ways that state capitalist practices have hurt MNC interests in a variety of developing countries, paying special attention to those that he calls the most egregious and influential state capitalists, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and, of course, the Peoples Republic of China. However, Bremmer’s vested corporate interests undermine the utility of this section. These are not the objective analyses of a neutral observer, but the exposition of a president of a political risk consultancy whose fundamental interests – and the fundamental interests of whose multinational clients – run counter to those of state capitalist countries worldwide.

He then details the threats that state capitalism poses to the liberal, free market democracies of North America, Western Europe, and the Pacific Rim. Underlying this section is an assumption of the intrinsic superiority of free markets – yes, an assumption, for Bremmer does not provide any insight into exactly why free markets work when they work but fail when they fail, except to blame failure on “government regulation,” an inexcusable oversimplification. He gives cursory treatment to the financial crisis, concluding that free markets are not to blame, but poor government regulation is, failing to consider the extent to which regulatory failure of is in fact a result of private sector agency – in other words, he vastly underestimates or even ignores the influence that the private sector has on politics in liberal free market countries. Finally, he reaches the conclusion that free market capitalism will eventually win out over state capitalism due to the latter’s unsustainable structural issues, and presents some modest, establishmentarian proposals on how to deal with state capitalism in the short and medium term, urging liberal industrialized countries to refrain from beggar-thy-neighbor policies.

Overall, despite its dubious grounding in market fundamentalism and the resulting murky analysis and logical fallacies that often made for a frustrating read, Bremmer’s book succeeds in the sense that it provides a good case as to why state capitalism threatens the interests of multinational corporations and developed, liberal free market economies. However, the book ultimately fails in because its analysis of state capitalism from the practitioner’s perspective is marked by the Nirvana fallacy, with Bremmer seemingly believing that liberal free market capitalism is a viable, immediate alternative to state capitalism in the countries in which the latter is practiced today.

Posted in book review, international affairs, politics & economics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment