Richard Davies

Nine visits to places in which the local economic circumstances are extreme. By an economist, who acknowledges that his profession tends to ignore these places as they do not fit into the neat economic models in one way or the other.

But as Davies explains, other professions, having the same tendency, visit extreme cases as a tool to find out things they otherwise couldn't. Medicine, for example learns a lot from the fate of freak accidents like brain injuries. Material scienists study how structures break, in order to build robust ones. Chemists learn about elements from extremely hot, cold or dense places in the universe.

Davies chose the following nine economies, and he labelled them in three ways, which inidcate what we can learn from them for our own situations:

  1. [Survival] Aceh, Indonesia (how an economy re-builds, after a catastrophe like the 2004 tsunami wipes everything away)
  2. [Survival] Zaatari refugee camp (how markets appear within and work around restrictions)
  3. [Survival] Louisiana State Prison (how markets appear even where money is forbidden)
  4. [Failure] Darien, Panama (how the tragedy of the commons stands in the way of markets properly valuating externalities)
  5. [Failure] Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (economic life inside extreme and long-lasting corruption)
  6. [Failure] Glasgow, Scotland (erosion of public wealth after the death of the main industry)
  7. [Future] Japan (economics inside a rapidly aging society)
  8. [Future] Estonia (a society betting it all on digitization)
  9. [Future] Santiago de Chile (inequality and its consequences inside ecomomic growth)

So this book is a little trip around the world and to gain some new perspectives. That is great value.

In terms of economics, there is something for everybody to like or to critizise. Who or what is responsible for these situations, in good or in bad sense? Governments or markets? I've seen people trying to interprete this book in only one way (ignoring or arguing against certain parts of it) but Davies isn't one-sided.

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