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Book Review By Chuck Nugent
The Commanding Heights - The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw

The Commanding Heights - The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World
Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw
Touchstone, 1998, 2002,
ISBN 0-684-82975-4

The twentieth century was an era of expanding government. Communism and socialism dominated the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe while various stages of the welfare state was the norm in much of the rest of the world. Outside the U.S. and little enclaves like Hong Kong market based economies were steadily eroded by the seemingly unstoppable expansion of government control over national economies. By mid-century it looked as if centralized control of national economies by government planners, whether they be communist, fascist, socialist or Keynesian, was the wave of the future. A few lonely voices, like Austrian born economists Ludwig von Mises or F.A. Hayek spoke of the dangers government economic control to both personal liberties and economic efficiency. However, consensus among policy makers, politicians and special interest groups was for more, not less, government intervention in the economy.

As the millennium approached it became increasingly clear that centrally controlled economies were a failure. Great Britain, home of the Industrial Revolution, was in steady economic decline with its gross domestic product approaching that of a third world country. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were bankrupt and collapsing. But change was afoot. Margaret Thatcher, who as a college student had come across and read a copy of F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (published in the 1930s), became Prime Minister of Great Britain and began reducing the government's role in the economy and allowing market forces to re-emerge. In Asia Deng Xiaoping and his team of reformers began relaxing the Communist Party's grip on the Chinese economy. India, Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe all began to move away from statist state control and toward market based economies and, as they did so, economies started growing and living standards began rising.

In "The Commanding Heights - The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace That Is Remaking the Modern World" authors Yergin and Stanislaw document these changes and, in doing so, provide the reader with an understanding of the origins of the economic forces which are driving the world economy today. They also show how the same economic forces which are driving economic growth and raising living standards around the world are also expanding freedom and making individuals' lives better both economically and politically.

Kind Of History
Time of history: - 20th century
Economic History? Yes
Industry - General Economy

Subjects of this Historical Account
Is the portrayal sympathetic? - Sympathetic

Main Adversary
From a certain profession/group?
How much of work is main antagonist actually present in: - a moderate amount
Is the portrayal sympathetic? - Neutral

Europe Yes
European country: - Germany - England/UK - France - Poland
Asia/Pacific Yes
Asian country: - Russia - India - China
The Americas (not US): Yes
The Americas: - South
If applicable, liberal/conservative? - Historian is moderately conservative

Writing Style
How much gore? - 1 ()
How fast-paced is the book? - 4 ()
Accounts of torture and death? - no torture/death
Book makes you feel... - encouraged
How much focus on stories of individuals? - Focuses mostly on the people/nation level
How much romance? - 1 ()
Pictures/Illustrations? - None
Length of book - 300-350 pages
How much emphasis on small details? - 4 ()
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