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The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  457 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Understanding the rise of state capitalism and its threat to global free markets

The End of the Free Market details the growing phenomenon of state capitalism, a system in which governments drive local economies through ownership of market-dominant companies and large pools of excess capital, using them for political gain. This trend threatens America's competitive edge
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2010 by Portfolio
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Jun 24, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: borrowed
This book was clearly written with an audience of wealthy American Friedmanites in mind. If that is not you, its assumptions may sicken/disappoint you and it's self-contradictions will certainly frustrate/amuse/confuse you. The only reason to read this book is to get further insight into what modern Friedmanites/neo-liberals/neo-conservatives are afraid of.

The bulk of the book is a laundry list of all the good (sometimes great) results of various economic practices the author calls "state capita
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
This is one of those big-themed books that looks at what's going on economically on a global basis, and tries to make sense of it. The pattern that Ian Bremmer sees is one where Western countries with free-market economies and relatively laissez-faire governments are having their butts kicked by the likes of China and India whose governments practice what he calls "state capitalism". He defines this concept as one where there's a large amount of free enterprise but the state is clearly the domin ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: economics
In the end, something of a disappointment. Bremmer begins by talking about "state capitalism" as something new, but neglects Alexander Gerschenkron's work two generations ago about the role of the state in directing and supporting industrialisation in Central and Eastern Europe in the 19th and early-20th centuries. He also seems to think that state capitalism is the aberration, that some Friedmanite version of the "free market" is and should be the norm, and takes it as a given that only "free m ...more
Oct 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: financial
Bremmer is a sharp critic of state capitalism, but an apologist for the failures of markets. He goes so far as to hold government primarily responsible for the economic collapse of 2008. While government surely is responsible for some of the blame, the outright greed and immorality (is that even a concept anymore?) of the markets is quickly dismissed. While he believes that state capitalism is not an enduring model, he barely nibbles at the nefarious intrusion of corporations into government in ...more
Charlie Cray
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although published years ago, this book is more relevant than ever.

Bremmer's 2009 Foreign Affairs article was the impetus for the book, and worth reading instead.

"State capitalism" as Bremmer describes it, is rapidly threatening the so-called "free market" system dominated by U.S. and other multinationals.

The oil and gas sector is a keystone example. THREE QUARTERS of the world's remaining reserves are held by state-owned enterprises (SoEs). (or did - f
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although published years ago, this book is more relevant than ever.

Bremmer's 2009 Foreign Affairs article was the impetus for the book, and worth reading instead.

"State capitalism" as Bremmer describes it, is rapidly threatening the so-called "free market" system dominated by U.S. and other multinationals.

The oil and gas sector is a keystone example. THREE QUARTERS of the world's remaining reserves are held by state-owned enterprises (SoEs). (or did - f
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Books like this make the advocates of free markets work a lot harder to get their case across. This is not so much making a case for free markets but a diatribe against state capitalism from someone who confuses free markets with the corporate market rigging which exists in the USA.

The freer markets exist at local levels where product and service providers fight tooth and claw to grasp at local opportunities but where competition is fierce.

At a higher level, corporations, with their lawyers and
George Odera
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ian Bremmer is one of the most brilliant minds in political economy. He exhibits a sixth sense in assessing world affairs. I have read 2 of his books (the other being Us v Them) and can curtly summarise them as "Why the world is the way it is". This 2010 book is a harbinger of the 2018 world.
However, for all his brilliance, Ian Bremmer is an AMERICAN economist(hence a de facto Friedmanite). The book is riddled with gushing praise of free-market capitalism, without highlighting many of its paten
Alberto Lopez
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-favorites
A great book. It paints a comprehensive picture of the transition between totalitarian centrally planned economies to today's estate economies. It also looks at the effect estate economies will have on free markets. It is simply a must-read for anyone wishing to understand global markets as well as geopolitics. For an expanded review see ...more
Konrad von Pless
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
The book starts with a bold question in its title but then fails to answer it. It decently explains the various kinds of state capitalism and gives multiple examples of its inner workings in practice. This is then contrasted with the more laissez-faire approach of Western economies, but at no point does the author make any serious predictions or models. Overall the books serves well as an introduction to state capitalism, what it is, and how it works, but makes no attempt at describing the actua ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
An excellent book centered around an excellent question. Does state capitalism as practiced around the world threaten global free markets? And to what extent are do various countries practice state capitalism? Will state capitalism drive world powers into conflict?
Marcus Goncalves
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read this book again. After 10 years of its publication, the author has been pretty accurate on his predictions of a G-zero world, with no leadership. Great argument on the state of capitalism and the rise of the State Capitalism and its impact on the global economy.
Jack Oughton
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I feel like I learned a lot about the implications of, and differences between 'free market capitalism' and 'state capitalism'. ...more
Bharat Joshi
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good little primer on what "State capitalism" is and how it impacts the globe. Recommended for people who are uninitiated in the subject. For everyone else this will be old news and lacking depth. ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
It has been an interesting month of reading. After Bill McKibben's "Eaarth" about overheated consumption's impact on the planet and Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" speaking on the toll modern day "Taker" culture has on society, and a viewing of Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story", I thought a book on the free market may provide some balance.

"The End of the Free Market" is actually a fascinating book. I enjoy learning areas that I have little or no knowledge of. Economics is certainly one of tho
John Hively
Mar 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is an incredibly dumb book and it’s very boring. It lacks clarity and decent research to back up it’s point, whatever it is. For example, the author implies that the Smoot-Hawley Act was responsible for the depth of the Great Depression, yet all academic studies show that the act had little impact on the severity of the Great depression. On top of that, Bremmer argues that modern nations don’t attack each other much, but “In 2010, the US troops are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, bu ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May Ling
Jun 13, 2011 added it
Shelves: economics
I gave this book the 3.5 stars, because although it's well researched and makes some interesting points, there are number of places in which the argument is more of a stretched and awkward in the definitions used. This appears to be an attempt to support "free markets", but quickly changes to a book that compares free markets (Western version) to State run capitalism (Emerging dictatorship economies) with comparisons drawn in a bit of a static sense. As a result, the book really misses the histo ...more
Eugene Kernes
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
A warning to the rights of individual that state-capitalism threatens free market economics. State run companies, or companies that the government has a majority stake in, has special privileges that impede efficient use of resources. Reduction of competition and little feedback from public scrutiny. The resources governments obtain via state run companies usually have an incentive to be maleficent as the politician's way of getting more power. State owned companies are often provided with more ...more
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. Rather than being a methodical analysis of how statist regimes use industrial enterprises for political ends, using examples as case studies--i.e. what the book advertises itself to be, it is instead little more than a series of anecdotes, written from the perspective of someone who refuses to rethink the legitimacy of neoliberal economic theory, even in light of what's happened in the West over the past two years.

I think a more fruitful approach to the study of this topic requir
Call Me Ishmael
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it
ISBN-10: 1591843014

He does a good job of listing the issues with “State Capitalism” mostly using China, India, Venezuela, and Brasil as examples. The flaw of which is picking winners to support political power. Ultimately, this works early in the cycle..while the economy’s growing and there’s enough benefits to buy off opposition. BUT, as the system matures corruption/inefficiency shows, and you wake up one day to find the people in charge are not willing to do the things required to realign the
Jul 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
The book is written with conclusions already in mind and the structure seems to have been created to state the already-formed conclusions.

To start with, state capitalism is more or less defined as something that starts with just beyond whatever the US government does and is expanded to include everyone the author does not like.

Biases are too ridiculous even when you want to agree with the conclusions. For example, market capitalism is branded as only good system because that's the only one that
Jamie (Books and Ladders)
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting take on how the 2008 financial crisis reignited the worlds take on state capitalism and how it threatens free market capitalism. It wasn't too difficult to read or understand, but some concepts were vaguely described or not fully expanded on which made some arguments difficult to follow. Would be interesting to see an updated version now that there is no longer a "recession" and the fact that Tr*mp has been making the US more and more state capitalist by the day. ...more
Frank Kelly
I guess the real question is: have governments ever NOT been engaged in regulating/manipulating/fixing the markets? Bremmer postulates that for a variety of reasons, we have reached the end of the free market and state capitalism is increasingly emerging as the new global model (see: China, Saudi Araba, US bail-out of banks, etc.). Overall, Bremmer is right to some degree but the tensions will remain and pendulum will undoubtedly swing back and forth in the decades to come, I suspect. Overall, h ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
This was one of the worst books that I've read in awhile. The arguments were completely incoherent and I didn't even get halfway through.

I decided to read it because I thought it would be about how the Chinese economic model presents an alternative the current model of liberal democracy. The book attempts to explain this, but it presents no useful distinctions between liberal democracy and what it calls "state capitalism." Bremmer defines state capitalism as "a system in which the state dominat
Oct 18, 2010 rated it liked it
The name isn't quite what you would expect from the subtitle - it's less about the fight between corporations and government and more about the fight between "state capitalism", where industries are often owned or largely supported by the governments, and traditionally capitalistic countries, where there is some regulation and protectionism but most things are free.

It's an interesting book - fairly easy to read despite a less-than-exciting subject matter, and it makes you think about things tha
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had this on audiobook and pretty much did the audio equivalent of skimming, because...well, this book really don't grab you. That said, the overall concept of the book is pretty great - basically that all states practice some degree of state capitalism, but the new model of a state directed capitalism (*cough* China *cough*) isn't going away, because of the power it conveys to the state and the favoritism it conveys to pet corporations. He also talks about the gulf monarchies, the new trend in ...more
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
While not one of Bremmer's bests, "The End of the Free Market" was still a wonderful read and invaluable for anyone interested in politics or investment. The book does an excellent job at showing the distinct philosophical differences between supporters of capitalism and supporters of state-capitalism. While the first 150 pages may seem redundant for anyone well informed on economic policy, the last 50 pages of analysis make the entire read worthwhile.

One of my few complaints was the typo on pa
May 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
I like books that help me see the world in a different way, hopefully in a way that better reflects its complexities and diversities. This book did that for me because it helped me learn more about different kinds of economic systems, how each works and how they work, for good and bad, in conjunction with each other. Of course, I also liked this book because, as a product of and believer in the free market system, it takes the stand that capitalism and the free market, properly regulated, is the ...more
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Best text on economic-theory book since The World is Flat. Focuses on the transfer of wealth to state-owned enterprises, oil companies and sovereign wealth funds from G3 economics. The book details the structure of each national actor and makes a case for the end of free markets. The research is worthy of five stars but sacrifices it in the final two chapters by saying that free markets won't end, despite its title and introductory thesis. Much like Thomas Friedman's revisions, I imagine this bo ...more
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Ian Bremmer (born November 12, 1969) is an American political scientist specializing in US foreign policy, states in transition, and global political risk. He is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm, and a professor at Columbia University. Eurasia Group provides financial, corporate, and government clients with information and ins ...more

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3 likes · 1 comments
“Second, there is the concept of "creative destruction." Economist Joseph Schumpeter coined this phrase in his 1942 book, "Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy," to describe a process by which dying ideas and materials fertilize new ones, endowing capitalism with a self-regenerating dynamism. As industries become obsolete and die the workers, assets, and ideas that once sustained them are freed to recombine in new forms to produce goods, services, and ideas that meet the evolving wants and needs of consumers. This process sustains an ever-expanding economic ecosystem. It's not the product of political whim. It's as organic as human evolution.

Those who administer state capitalism fear creative destruction—for the same reason they fear all other forms of destruction: They can't control it. Creative destruction ensures that industries that produce things that no one wants will eventually collapse. That means lost jobs and lost wages, the kind of problem that can drive desperate people into the streets to challenge authority. In a state-capitalist society, lost jobs can be pinned directly on state officials. That's why the ultimate aim of Chinese foreign policy is to form commercial relationships abroad that can help fuel the creation of millions of jobs back home. That's why Indian officials forgive billions in debt held by farmers on the even of an election and raise salaries for huge numbers of government employees. That's why Prime Minister Putin travels to shuttered factories with television cameras in tow and orders them reopened. Of course, workers in a free-market system blame politicians for lost jobs and wages all the time. That's why candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton tried to outpopulist one another in the hard-hit states of Pennsylvania and Ohio during the 2008 presidential campaign. But when the government owns the company that owns the factory, its responsibility for works is both more direct and more obvious. Political officials don't want responsibility for destruction, creative or otherwise. Inevitable economic volatility will eventually give state capitalism ample incentive to shed responsibilities that become too costly.”
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