- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: ATRIA BOOKS (12 Sept. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1476700257
- ISBN-13: 978-1476700250
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 921,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Balance: The Economics of Great Powers from Ancient Rome to Modern America Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013
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In seeking to discover what might be common factors throughout history to explain the rise and decline of powerful states, Hubbard and Kane have succeeded in identifying surprisingly similar trajectories. Their thought-provoking analysis has compelling relevance for Americas future. --Henry A. Kissinger
About the Author
Tim Kane is the chief economist of the Hudson Institute, veteran Air Force officer, and has twice served at the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress. He regularly writes for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and USA TODAY and is well-known public speaker. Glenn Hubbard is the dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and the former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. He is a frequent contributor to Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, as well as PBS's The Nightly Business Report and American Public Media's Marketplace.
Top Customer Reviews
I'm genuinely tempted to say "nothing" but it's not entirely true.
I've learnt that Diocletian formalised guilds in Rome. In school we were all taught how horrible he'd been to Christians, but I now know we additionally have him to thank for the 28 "closed professions" Mario Monti lost his mandate trying to pry open. Cool info.
But I was surprised that the book could not make the connection between Rome and the Ottoman Empire. I mean what was great about both was common (respect for the achievements / tolerance for the culture and religion of their subjects) and what was bad about both was common (the fact that praetorians / janissaries etc. ended up running the empires for themselves a lot of the time). That's before you consider that one was built on the ashes of the other.
And, in general, the book took me through a whirlwind tour of Rome, China, Spain, Turkey, Japan, the EU, California and the US and then did not really do much in terms of putting the pieces together.
There was no oooomph. No passion. No over-riding theme. Too much, er, Balance. Then again, that's what it says on the cover.
Regardless, there are enough fun ideas in the book that one should not reject it. Like, for example, that the British empire did not die of overstretch. Rather, it failed to assimilate the US. Giving British citizenship to American subjects would indeed have been quite a coup. Even if it's the wrong idea, it's an intriguing concept.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Through the ages Kane and Hubbard expose the many ways that governments have tried unsuccessfully to thwart, avoid or simply violate the laws of economics. The Ottomans used their people as financial goats to be milked and then eaten. That was not a good long term plan. Spain had a river of gold and silver flow to it from the Americans for centuries but at the end of the day Spain ended up with nothing but lost wars to show for the unprecedented wealth that slipped through the nation's collective fingers.
I found the section on modern California both fascinating and frightening. The authors explanations of how California got into such a fix left no details, however complex, un-examined.
The authors, at once academics and economists-professions not known for either clarity or brevity-managed to produce a work that is accessible to the layman. Which is exactly what we laymen need to help us understand how very badly our political masters have miss-managed our nation's financial well being. In fact, they have gone a long ways to have put us all on the slide to history's refuse pile. All of the errors, mistakes, miscalculations and out right frauds committed by our leaders have predictable even inevitable results.
But we suffer from their maleficence as will our children and perhaps their children....
However, when they turn to their case studies things start to get less precise. The case studies (Rome, China,Spain, etc) are presented fairly enough and anyone who has read similar studies will recognize most of the points being made. My complaint with this approach is that they are following the descriptive method they complained about earlier without adding anything new to the standard analysis. For example, the concept of centralized bureaucracy. If you identify that one of the issues that led to a fiscal decline was a too centralized bureaucracy, how would you count it? Is there a tipping point where the percentage of the elite class being employed by the government becomes too much? This would be something to try to quantify if you are attempting a more empirical approach to this subject.
By the time we get to the end of the book and begin discussing the current US situation, along with the authors proscription, there is not much different than any other political opinion piece. A book that I felt started out with high promise, in the end disappointed.
References, notes, and index all top rate.
While the (basic) book / work / thesis was 'interesting' -- the further that it (& I) progressed, my experience in reading this book was the OPPOSITE of the above...
For *ME*, the FURTHER that I read (on in) it -- the LESS that I felt that I (really) was getting out of the thesis / assertions / documentation -- or being 'CONVINCED' -- the MORE 'holes' (vs 'wholes' or even 'chasms') that appeared -- & the LESS that I ENJOY(ed) -- &/or was 'COMPELLED' by -- the work...
The author offers solutions for the U.S. to avoid these past mistakes but in my view he should have devoted more ink to how the creation of a middle class is possible only with economic growth encouraged by free market, Adam Smith concepts.
I disagree with the authors' reason for why this is happening in the US. I think the real reason is the primary system. The idea behind the primary system was to "empower" the citizenry to select their candidates, rather than having the parties select candidates. The result is that the most motivated people, who are naturally the most ideological, drive the candidate selection process. Most of us never vote in a primary, because we have better things to do than immerse our lives in politics. When election time comes around, we're presented with 2 candidates who represent the extremes of the political spectrum, and we're left with a choice between the lesser of 2 evils.
Contrast this with our typical choices when party bosses selected candidates behind closed doors 'in smoke filled rooms'. Each party had the incentive to select a centrist candidate in hopes of winning the moderate voters over. Resulting in a Congress with more moderate members, and more willingness to work together.
Primaries - yet another great idea that turned out to be a disaster in the real world from the intellectuals trying to make over our country.