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Posted January 18, 2012
An even-handed look at the side of free-market capitalism you don't hear about!
To be blunt: Regardless of your political beliefs, if you have lived in a developed country your whole life, your exposure to economics is from a very narrow point of view that focuses on the West's impact on the rest of the world, and not the other way around.
In a globalized economy, this means first-world sources have some woeful blind spots. Whenever you hear about a developing nation's economy, it is always within the context of threat or exploitation- either a developing country is threatening to take our jobs, or the workers in such a place are always being exploited by some other faction... with first-world economies hinted at as the culprits.
The author demonstrates that this perspective is both condescending and short-sighted. There is a reason why developing nations are seeing faster economic growth than anyone else, and this book makes a good case for why. Interest groups in a developed nation will portray globalization as something Western cultures inflict on the rest of the world, but few people stop to realize that those people can and will embrace globalization and use it to innovate, adapt and better their own lives... whether a government approves of their actions or not.
Neuwirth also explores the historical roots of unregulated markets, noting that many of the great cultural and economic booms in history owe much of their success to an army of street vendors, counterfeiters, and others who conducted their commerce off the books. While Neuwirth definitely has a pro-capitalist vibe to his writing, he isn't afraid to address and concede the shortcomings of an unregulated market. For example, an unlicensed business has a hard time obtaining or building a line of credit with (regulated) banks, and this severely limits their rate of growth. They are also more prey to fraud or extortion- though he notes that often, the people doing the extorting are government officials!
Whether you believe Capitalism is a boon or a bane to the world, I think this book will help temper your views on the subject. I would highly recommend this read for anyone interested in seeing a side of the "free market" that is under-appreciated and misrepresented all too often in Western countries.
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Posted January 29, 2013
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