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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World » User review

A book to open your mind

  • Nov 19, 2009
Have you ever wondered why the United States has been more economically successful than Argentina, when they were in just about the same position a century ago? Has it ever occurred to you that countries which import food are really importing water or land?

Me neither. But that's what I loved about this book --it brings up notions that had really never occurred to me, and explores them in a thorough and satisfying way. It looks at history -- and at current issues, too -- in very different ways.

This isn't a witty book, or one with lots of interesting characters. At one point, Beattie assures us that "an economist's idea of paradise (pitiful but true) is one governed by the law of one price, where the prices of similar goods in different markets converge such that inefficiencies are driven out of the system."

Yes, that is in fact pitiful.

But given that you're not looking for thrills and you don't mind a helping of math with your history, this is a fascinating book. It looks into political corruption, natural resources, religion, and why pandas are so useless. Along the way, Beattie reveals a collection of counter-productive patterns and behaviors that turn up in failing nations and civilizations around the world, and proposes that we might be able to learn from their mistakes and not do the same thing ourselves.

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Rebecca Haden ()
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I'm a full time web content writer, working for companies and organizations from a goat farm in Oklahoma to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. My specialty is writing for both search engines and … more
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About this book


Financial Timesworld trade editor Beattie combines economic history, psychology and political analysis to identify the factors that predispose economies to sickness or health. The author takes a human interest,Freakonomics-style approach to such economic riddles as why Islamic nations stay mired in poverty (he argues that one reason might be the Qur'an's dictum against usury and interest-earning) and why Africa is dependent on exporting raw materials rather than commercial products (soaring temperatures and shoddy infrastructure). Beattie imbues economics with wonderful mystery as he untangles the mechanisms of the blood diamond trade and Peru's curious stranglehold on the global export of asparagus. Closer to home, Beattie examines the economic rivalry between Argentina and the United States a century ago; when Argentina seemed to be winning, the U.S. made a series of crucial decisions, moved forward and left Argentina poised for financial disaster. Thorough research, eclectic examples and a sprightly tone (Puritans were not big on bling) should make this a hit among those interested in world economics—and a must-read alternative for those who couldn't get throughGuns, Germs and Steel.(Apr.)
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ISBN-10: 1594488665
ISBN-13: 978-1594488665
Author: Alan Beattie
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover

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