Robert Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University, England. His latest book is How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life with Edward Skidelsky. He is the author of a three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes.
 (April 2014)

The Programmed Prospect Before Us

Staff members at an Amazon warehouse preparing orders ahead of ‘Cyber Monday,’ the year’s busiest online shopping day, Peterborough, England, November 28, 2013
Simon Head is a journalist turned academic who has specialized in writing about the social impact of technology. In The New Ruthless Economy, he analyzed the practice of call centers, showing how digitalized scripts required of their operators robot-like behavior. In his latest book he claims that computer programming is now applied to all the principal sectors of the manufacturing and service economy.

Inventing the World’s Money

Assistant US Treasury Secretary Harry Dexter White and John Maynard Keynes, adviser to the UK Treasury, at the inaugural meeting of the International Monetary Fund’s Board of Governors, Savannah, Georgia, March 1946. White and Keynes had clashed at the Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944, which conceived the IMF as part of a new postwar international monetary system.
Do we need another book on Bretton Woods, the conference in 1944 in New Hampshire that established a new monetary system following World War II? The answer is yes. The two excellent existing histories of Bretton Woods, by Richard Gardner (1956) and Armand van Dormael (1978), are now dated.1 …

For a National Investment Bank

President Obama is in a bind. He knows that the economic recovery is fragile and dependent on continued fiscal stimulus—hence the bipartisan deal on further tax breaks he brokered in December. But he also knows that the tolerance in Washington for deficits of close to 10 percent of Gross Domestic …

The World Finance Crisis & the American Mission

A. Ross By common consent, we have been living through the greatest economic downturn since World War II. It originated, as we all know, in a collapse of the banking system, and the first attempts to understand the resulting economic crisis focused on the reasons for bank failures.

Can You Spare a Dime?

The historian Alan Taylor used to say, mischievously, that the only point of history is history. The idea that one could use it to predict the future, still more to avoid past mistakes, was pure illusion. Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money, a history of financial innovation written as a …

Gloomy About Globalization

Making Globalization Work is the third of Joseph Stiglitz’s popular, and populist, books.[^1] Like Jeffrey Sachs, Stiglitz is an economist turned preacher, one of a new breed of secular evangelists produced by the fall of communism. Stiglitz wants to stop rich countries from exploiting poor countries without damaging the springs …

Winning a Gamble with Communism

The Hungarian János Kornai is the most famous, and certainly the most influential, economist to have emerged from postwar Communist Europe.[^1] His reputation is based on three books, Overcentralization, Economics of Shortage, and The Socialist System, which knocked away the intellectual foundations of the publicly owned, bureaucratically planned economy. In …

Drawing a Dog in Iraq

The British governed Iraq under a League of Nations mandate, and with some success, between 1920 and 1932. They returned to southern Iraq in 2003 as a junior member of the US-led coalition which invaded and conquered the country. With the second British coming arrived Rory Stewart, a young soldier …

Hot, Cold and Imperial

The question of how the world should be run, and America’s part in its running, is the subject of much academic and political discussion in Washington these days. The factual questions are: Is the United States on the road to becoming an empire like the Roman and British Empires before …

The Chinese Shadow: II

Three superb recent books by John Friedmann, Pun Ngai, and Elizabeth C. Economy explore the effect of China’s economic “rise,” not on the United States but on China.[^1] John Friedmann’s China’s Urban Transition looks at it through the lens of urbanization. Mao Zedong was anti-city, partly for military reasons: industries …

The Chinese Shadow

The “rise” of China has suddenly become the all-absorbing topic for those professionally concerned with the future of the planet. Will the twenty-first century be the Chinese century, and, if so, in what sense? Will China’s rise be peaceful or violent? And how will this affect the United States, the …

In the Führer’s Face

Two themes run through the life and career of Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry. The first is the decline and fall of the British aristocracy; the second is British attitudes toward Hitler and Nazi Germany. They intersect in the person of “Charley” Londonderry because he was an …

One World?

Globalization was the most dramatic idea to emerge from the collapse of communism and the end of the cold war. Suddenly, it seemed, there was “one world.” US State Department official Francis Fukuyama said it first: there was now no ideological obstacle to the spread of markets and democracy. Further, …

The Mystery of Growth

The question of what causes economies to grow is theoretically interesting and practically important. If we could discover the secrets of economic growth—what causes income per person to increase over time—we might be able to make growth happen at will, abolishing poverty and creating a world of universal abundance. Until …

What Makes the World Go Round?

In 1987 the historian Paul Kennedy published a controversial book called The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. Its message was that the United States was suffering from imperial “overstretch.” Its economy was no longer large or dynamic enough to …

The World on a String

George Soros is the best-known financial speculator of our time, godfather of hedge funds, those fast-moving and largely unregulated raiders in the corporate jungle that make their killings from fluctuations in the prices of stocks, commodities, currencies. When he writes books readers might reasonably expect tips on how to make …

What’s Left of Marx?

When Karl Marx was twenty-four, a contemporary wrote of him: “Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine and Hegel fused into one person…and you have Dr. Marx.” Marx was not one of those brilliant young men who fail to live up to their promise. He produced the most powerful, coherent, and …

All in the Family

In the early 1980s, the English writer James Fox was shown a large trunk at his grandfather’s house in Northamptonshire covered in Cunard and White Star steamship stickers. On inspection it turned out to contain thousands of letters between the Langhorne sisters, as well as other correspondence, carefully collected and …

Family Values

In his delightful memoirs, the art historian Kenneth Clark recalls that Lord Cunliffe, governor of the Bank of England, came to lunch with his father on August 2, 1914. “There’s talk of a war,” said Lord Cunliffe, “but it will never happen; the Germans haven’t got the credits.” Almost a …

Giant

When John Pierpont Morgan died in 1913, he was the most powerful banker in the world. As the main conduit for British foreign investment into North America he helped transform the United States from a society of yeoman farmers into an industrial colossus. More controversially, Morgan helped change competitive business …