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World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

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  • Posted May 1, 2009

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    A deeply unpleasant book, virulent in its hatred of democracy

    Chua is a Professor at Yale Law School. In Part 1 she describes globalisation's economic impact, in Part 2 its political consequences, and in Part 3 she warns that the USA should not export laissez-faire capitalism or overnight democracy. She claims that the three most powerful forces in the world are markets, democracy and ethnic hatred.

    She reminds us that the theory was that free-market democracy would change the world, making it peaceful and prosperous. She points out that in many places markets have concentrated huge wealth into the hands of ethnic minorities - the Chinese in South-East Asia, Jews in Russia, whites in South Africa and Latin America, Israel in the Middle East and the USA in the world. She says that markets and democracy benefit different 'groups', so that 'free market democracy' is an unstable, toxic combination.

    Global integration and market policies have raised average incomes - but only by making the extremely rich even richer. In a population of 100,000, if the richest thousand people each get a million pounds more, and the other 99,000 lose £10,000 each, total incomes will rise by £10,000,000 and the average by £100.

    Her opposition to democracy becomes clearer as she goes on. She smears nationalisation as racist 'ethnically targeted confiscation'. She calls the Vietnamese government Hitlerian for confiscating the property of Chinese entrepreneurs in South Vietnam, yet admits that it did the same to 'their Vietnamese counterparts'. She claims that nationalisation 'damaged the economic growth of Asia, Africa and Latin America' and is just an 'expression . of popular frustration and vengeance'. She smears as autocratic and racist Hugo Chavez, 'whose nationalisation and other anti-market policies seem to Westerners utterly irrational'.

    She concludes, "It is dangerous to see democracy as a panacea", but she never warns against seeing markets as a panacea. She urges, "the best hope for democratic capitalism in the non-Western world lies with market-dominant minorities." So for democracy's sake, she backs minorities against majorities. She warns of a backlash 'against democracy by forces favourable to the market-dominant minority' - she appears to be part of this backlash.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Global Investor's Perspective

    "World on Fire" is one of the most useful and interesting books I have read in a while. It provides information on who "market dominant minorities" in various corners of the world are and how they managed to get this dominance. As a global investor, I have found that it is extremely important to understand origins of top managers' power within companies, and how these managers and their companies fit in the power structures of their countries. This understanding is especially important in emerging markets, which often have under-developed legislative protection of investor interests.

    Another important feature of the book is that it gives many vivid examples of ethnically targeted seizures and nationalizations in emerging markets. If you hear that a government of an emerging market country starts a propaganda campaign against a certain ethnic group, it might be time for selling shares of companies that this group controls, and potentially liquidating all investment positions in this country. Amy Chua has conducted excellent research and provided information that otherwise would have taken readers years to gather. Thank you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    I am a Chinese-Filipinos myself, I completely disagree what the author is claiming regarding this book, its full of racism against Filipinos. I noticed her hatred towards Filipinos and her 'Chinese superiority mentality', she keep insisting that Chinese-Filipinos control economy of the Philippines, and they are this bad that only Filipinos works for Chinese and no Chinese works for Filipinos., which is not true. Many young Chinese-Filipinos work for entirely Filipino companies after graduating from college. Aside from that, she keeps emphasizing how Chinese amass wealth, how they collaborated with Marcos, and even said 'upon learning that Marcos wished only to re-distrubute wealth to themselves and not to the poor, the Chinese rejoiced and stock prices steadily climbed up'. She have same mentality as those exceptional few wealthy Chinese-Filipinos who look down at Filipinos, but she is insisting that all Chinese-Filipinos are like that, she is emphasizing this just to justify her point of view regarding ethnic hatred. This kind of mentality really exist among tsinoys, but they are only few, she did not deny the fact that her family is part of those few individuals. Like what she said about the comment of her uncle when asked about the Payatas tragedy, her uncle was annoyed why everyone is discussing that, for that, I find her family cruel, everyone is sad about Payatas tragedy, even the Chinese-Filipino community donated much money and goods and helped in relief operations, she did not mention at all any contributions of Chinese-Filipino to the Philippines, the operation barrio schools, the volunteer fire fighters, the free medical clinic, the various educational foundations, charity organizations like Tzu Chi, Chi Liam Tong etc. She also mentioned about the safety deposit boxes of her family full of gold bars, the diamond collections of her aunt who was killed. It can easily be seen that her family is the typical target of crimminals because they dont know how to hide their wealth and treated their servants and employees badly. She mentioned that her aunt once told her in front of their maid that Filipinos are lazy and unintelligent. So after reading the book, I dont feel pity for her aunt's death. In fact, what the police blotter wrote might be true, the motive of the crime is 'revenge' not robbery, in which Amy Chua find it weird. She can't understand why the chauffeur of her aunt want to revenge her, because in her view, servants must only obey what the lords told them to do. In conclusion, this book is not worth reading, because many of the facts stated in the book was based on personal feelings and did not have documentary evidence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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