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on 17 November 2007
Two writers who interest me because of the quality of their writings and the arguments which they put forward are Michael Prowse and John Gray. Both of these men have at one time been associated with what is known as the New Right, a term generally taken to mean, a heterogenous group of academics, intellectuals, scholars, journalists and sundry others who contributed to the resurgence of classical liberal, whig and similar ideas associated with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Both of these authors have since turned away from those ideas and developed their thinking in other directions.

When I began to read this book I was reminded on Hayek's reason for not reviewing Keynes' General Theory: that he did not need to do so as he believed that Keynes would once again change his mind. However, as I proceeded to immerse myself in the material I began to gain some insight into the direction that Gray has gone.

I am sure that there are many who would simply dismiss these ideas as not worthy of serious consideration given that Gray is considered a turncoat in some quarters, and there are some who would merely denounce them from a simplistic neo-liberal point of view but I believe that such attitudes are seriously misguided. As Peter Wynarczyk once pointed out to me, we must all put our theories in the public domain so that they may be tested against competing theories. We can build walls against attack but then what use is a theory which is merely conditional. Gray recognises that many who swear allegiance to the neo-liberal doctrines have not fully thought through the implications of those theories and similarly also recognises the political ramifications of those policies when implemented by politicians and others.

After reading this book I am not coninced that Gray himself is anti-market. He seems to articulate a view of markets which are set within a social context, indeed he postulates competing capitalisms which to my mind is fully compatible within a classical liberal framework.

The target of his attack appears to be what he views as a programme, a political programme, of a world order based on a contemporary American conception of what a free market ought to be. Whereas Gray argues that the emergence of the phenomenon of globalisation is driven by the spread of new technologies as opposed to the breaking down of barriers against open or laissez faire economics, he develops the notion of a particular type of capitalism hell bent on world domination. False Dawn assesses the damage to other capitalisms and the implications thereof, and foresees a time when the general applicability of American capitalism will ultimately lead to it's demise and at a great cost. He believes that this juggernaut cannot be stopped easily due to the damage done to the power of the state through the past twenty or so years of it's extension to the global economy.

False Dawn also places this attempt to global economic domination within a context of the grand ideas of the Enlightenment and argues that as such it is doomed to failure. Gray writes comprehensively, providing examples from different capitalisms to support his theory and cleverly finds common results which support his findings. I found myself in disagreement with the notion that technology is an impetus for globalisation as I believe that the development and spread of technology is the result of an economic process rather than an instigator. Neither was I convinced of the fatality of his work. Even were I convinced of the disasterous consequences of the spread of one particular type of capitalism, I believe that the market process, through the creation of competitive forces will cause other capitalisms to fight for domination. Gray quotes Schumpeter's view on the nature of laissez faire in destroying and rebuilding to mourn the changes within societies but this is a double edged sword. Who is to say what was swept away is not worse than what is built?

Overall I think that this work is excellent and that it deserves serious attention rather than casual dismissal. False Dawn has some important arguements which policy makers, academics and intellectuals would do well to consider. The strength of ideas lies in their capacity to deal with attacks because it is only through those attacks that weakenesses, if not fatal flaws, can be detected. If we are confident in our belief in those ideas we should welcome attacks like Gray's for in the end we will find improvement.
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on 13 June 2007
For anyone wishing to understand Globalization from scratch

False Dawn is ,in my view ,an essential choice on this subject.

John Gray explains that Globalization is the spread of technology across the world. However, whilst this causes interconnection ,it does not cause the convergence of societies into a homogenous ideal. Free market ideology conflicts with religion and ethnic differences. John Gray believes that societies should not be forced to participate in modernization. False Dawn is a magnificent book written by a huge Intellectual. John Gray has a way of writing that is lucid and can appeal to the lay person as well as the academic reader.
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on 9 February 2003
John Gray makes some powerful arguments in his case against Global Markets.
For example if one country taxes its population to pay for public goods e.g. health or education and another country doesen't then profit maximising companies will go to the lowest tax regime.
Therefore an unregulated global market will tend to destroy public goods. In my opinion the status in which public sector workers are held bears this out. It is obscene that nurses and teachers get paid so little. However if the UK wishes to retain inward investment it must keep public spending to the bone.
Gray argues that this (and other things) necessitate some regulation of the Global Market Economy.
I would recommend this book to anyone seeking a thought provoking argument.
My only slight issue is that the quotes from various economists and philosophers disrupt the flow and make the book unnecessarily complicated to understand.
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on 6 May 2008
John Gray argues global capitalism is an unworkable, unattainable, unrealizable economic delusion. There are several reasons for this. Among them:
1. A free market is antithetical to democracy. A democracy where everyone has a say will never want a fully fledged free market because the losers will always outnumber the winners.
2. People will never be happy in a free market because the stress in their lifes will be too high as a result from the uncertainties of the free market.
3. The free market neglects human needs for social identity and social security. This means people will have no sense of loyality to state or political edifices. Lassez faire economics can only inevitably self implode.

In his polemic, he considers several economies including USA, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, China and Japan. It's not a bad book but I think the shortcoming of it is that it is too concerned with nit picking
all the problems with the free market. While there's nothing wrong with a detailed analysis, it just seems one eyed. Nothing is ever perfect, so it should come as no suprise to any rational thinking person that the free market has its faults. The question is what is the best way for us to have innovation, efficiency and a humane welfare state with distribution of wealth? Is that possible or is it always a see-saw act between capitalist and socialist ideologies? I thought this book was too concerned with articulating problems rather than searching for solutions.
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on 6 August 2014
First class book.
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on 10 November 2014
Great read
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