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Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World
Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World
by Kwasi Kwarteng
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I have long wanted to be written, 29 Aug. 2011
Kwasi Kwarteng was born to Ghanaian parents who had immigrated from Ghana to London, yet despite what his background may have suggested, he would go on to be educated at Eton College, Cambridge and become a Conservative MP. In addition to Winchester College and Oxford, it is these elite institutions which produced countless men (for they were only men) who at very young age were given the authority and resources to make a mark in lands far outside their native British Isles.

Kwarteng's brilliance is to very accurately and interestingly convey the impact of the actions taken by such individuals and the legacy which lives on to this day.

The best example I find is education and it helps answer the question as to why my father (who was born and educated in India) was better versed in Shakespeare than in Indian epics. Many of the leading schools in the Empire had headmasters followed Kwarteng's path. With them, they brought Anglican values so that to this day, schools with 99% Hindu students will sing traditional Christian psalms every morning. They brought the English Language so that everything from the curriculum to classes to report cards are expressed in English. They also instilled (sadly this has faded away from England itself) an English efficiency to administration and the ethos of responsibility. The halo of the English remains cast over education for students of from 3 to 21 in many countries.

Whilst the lands of the Empire imported much good from Britian, Kwarteng is fair to acknowledge pitfalls of its actions. Resources on a large scaled were grabbed from many countries, direct steps were taken to mute attempts to create democracy, and racism amongst leaders of the Empire was pervasive.

I have only presented a glimpse of this treasure, but anyone interested in the relevance of Britain today would do well to read this book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2011 11:47 AM BST

Economics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Economics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Partha Dasgupta
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the low reviews, if you're interested in more than Tabloid economics, this book will reward your reading, 17 Jun. 2011
The problem with the low reviews of this book is that they are expecting a short treatise explaining the complexities of the economic world to people whose desire is to learn about current affairs more than economics as a subject.

This book is not attempting to explain the history of finance (Niall Ferguson's ascent of Money is excellent for this) or the reasons for the credit crunch (try Peston, Who runs Britian for a UK perspective).

Rather, it introduces the layperson to economics as a discipline particularly the kinds of questions/topics economists are concerned with and the methodologies and conceptual frameworks employed to deepen our understanding.

If considered from this perspective, Professor Dasgupta (who was tutored by Nobel Laureate James Mirlees) has written an excellent short introduction. Its core strengths are twofold. Firstly, Dasgupta considers some of the most interesting and counterintuitive economic concepts ( such as Trust) and the implications of such ideas on interaction and economic results. Secondly, Professor Dasgupta has a gift for highlighting and drawing attention to the most theoretically interesting issues, whilst at the same time explaining these in language that is clear for non-experts to understand.

So, if you want to understand economics and not just the business pages of the Times, this book will be worth reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2011 9:49 AM GMT

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
by Abhijit Banerjee
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth the read, 3 Jun. 2011
Professors Banarjee and Duflo have produced a stream of high quality papers over the years using the most innovative and illuminating empirical techniques to show us how the world's poor can benefit greatly from small changes in current policy administration.

This book is not simply a summary of their seminal work, although their previous research applied appropriately. Rather, it shows how the status quo approaches are not working effectively yet are still used despite obvious flaws.
For example, various aid packages do not have the structuring incentives to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Concurrently, the failure of the market to support some of the mechanisms for development is also discussed. A prominent example of this is the lack of insurance provision for the activities that generate output in poorer economies. Insurance is extremely helpful for farming when weather variation is crucial to the success of failure of the product, yet it is rarely found in such countries.

Definitely a top work, from 2 top economists.

I just hope politicans have the guts to implement it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2012 4:00 PM GMT

Whats Wrong with the European Union and How to Fix it
Whats Wrong with the European Union and How to Fix it
by Simon Hix
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent if disagreeable, 20 Mar. 2011
Professor Hix is one of my teachers at university. This book is excellent at the task of deconstructing the facets of the EU which need to be remedied. The essential thrust of his argument is that the EU's democratic deficit needs to be eliminated through democratising key institutions and enforcing political contestation of policy on a greater level that currently exists. He is fair to acknowledge that the checks and ballances which are currently at work within the EU ensure that the overall direction of the EU is neutral. Without these changes, though, the EU will remain undemocratic, in a state of an 'enlightened despotism'.

I would have to disagree, however, at the discussion of the extent to which democracy should permeate the EU. Professor Hix states that 'limited democratic politics' is what is best for the EU currently. I believe that all politics should be democratic and when a supra-national entity removes sovereignty from a state, or enforces its own regulations and ideology, the changes cannot be greeted with legitimacy.

I think Professor Hix begins on the wrong track when attempting to show that the EU is more necessary than ever. He is right that co-operation between countries within Europe is necessary for us to prosper and hold our own against China, India, the US etc. But engaging in a political and economic union of this scale offers very few additional benefits that simple co-operation and trade agreements can offer. This can allow national leaders to bargain with each other on a mandate from their home electorate.

This would be a better way of doing things with Europe

Civilization: The Six Ways the West Beat the Rest
Civilization: The Six Ways the West Beat the Rest
by Niall Ferguson
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addresses an important question, how did the West get this far?, 19 Mar. 2011
I have to disagree strongly with reviews of less than 4 Stars. Niall Ferguson is one of my lecturers at university and for his final lecture with us this year, he spent most of it asking students to attack the notion that it was the artillery of the 6 killer apps which lead to the West's progress.

Time and time again students questioned the validity of one of the explanations and on every occasion, Professor Ferguson's rebuttal added ballast to the persuasiveness and richness of the killer apps. To take the example of why for centuries China did not embrace competition and capitalism on the scale seen in Western Europe, he points to the fact that most of China was stuck in a low level equilbrium economy, where agricultural production sustained society to maintain this equilibrium, but not to create mass-competition.

He is not saying that these methods were available exclusively to the West, in fact the opposite, he shows that once aware of the apps, any society can adopt and profit from using them. He rightly admits that the West did not always have the best intentions within colonies such as India, but nevertheless life expectancy increased, and infrustructure grew on a scale that could not have been anticipated were it not for the British Raj.

You may not agree with Professor Ferguson's hard-power, right wing, empire-apologist views. But you don't need to have those to believe that competition, protestant work ethic, democracy, science, medicine and consumerism have driven and propelled the West so far. Now the East can do it too.

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