Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yergin & Stanislaw: The Commanding Heights

While I have the opppotunity, I've been watching a long nerd video from the local PL: The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (2002) by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw (2002), an almost six-hour history of 20th political economics. I'm 2/3 of the way through, but it's proven quite fascinating. The initial program focused on the rival theories and careers of John Maynard Keynes and Frederick A. Hayek; or between government regulation vs. the market. I think that dicotomy drawn between the two thinkers is too stark, in that I don't believe the Keynes wanted a command and control economy (a la the Soviet Union), but that Keynes saw government as an active player and not a docile watchman. Hayek, and his apostolic successor, Milton Friedman, wanted government to do very little. I'll comment more later (I hope), but I can't help wondering what these authors would be saying now. Keynes, with all of the economic stimulus, seems quite back in fashion. Markets? Maybe they're not so perfect. (I say perfect markets work perfectly--now go find me a perfect market.) The program is well-researched, and includes short interview segments with many of the players it discusses, like Friedman, other UC economists, Jeffrey Sachs, Margaret Thatcher, and so on. Very very interesting program--great background for all of the current economic hub-bub.

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