Gordon's Reviews > The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?

The End of the Free Market by Ian Bremmer
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Aug 23, 2010

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Read in August, 2010

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 dominant player imposing its vision on shaping the economy and how it will evolve.

His favorite example is China, but he also draws heavily from India, Russia and the Persian Gulf oil states. While he understands the factors that these countries have in common and those that they don't, he doesn't make the leap from his mass of anecdotes and descriptions to coming up with any kind of model that explains it all. Nor does he really come up with any useful insights into how they will change their model of economic governance as they move from being developing countries to developed states. So, for example, it would have been useful had he talked about how resource-based regimes (Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE) use a different model of state capitalism than a far more complex economy based on agriculture / manufacturing / services such as India or China. And how does the model change at each stage of development? Will China's state capitalism be likely to come crashing down as the country moves beyond building infrastructure (roads, dams, power plants, airports, telecom networks ...) and beyond manufacturing mountains of widgets for Westerners and instead starts catering to the needs of its own consumers? Will there be some kind of convergence with the politics and economics of the Western developed countries? I didn't get answers to these kinds of issues from this book. Inquiring minds still want to know ...
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Keith I didn't find Bremmer's "mass of the anecdotes and descriptions," as you describe them, to be as insightful as I'd assume they would be. However, I am not disturbed that he didn't develop the explanatory model of economic governance that you find wanting. Human affairs don't always fit into neat explanatory models, a fact that today's economists are being forced to acknowledge.

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