The Upside Of Down

Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West

Charles Kenny 2013

A polemic - not useful for changing minds. There are many useful facts amongst the mostly moderate opinions, though the facts are obviously selected from a larger set to support the "economics creationist" point of view.

Like Kenny, I want a United States well connected to the global economy. Economies are created by human effort to fulfill human needs, so the flow and amplification of wealth involves the flow and connection of people between economic centers; bringing producers to the consumers, or (like medical tourism) bringing the consumers to the producers. The author discusses these as societal goals - I found more practical information in C.K. Prahalad's "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid". Regards barriers to development, there is more useful stuff in DeSoto's "The Mystery of Capital".

The main message of the book is that the world IS improving economically; dire poverty is still with us, but "United-States-Sized" populations around the world are moving from poverty to sufficiency every decade, and when they do, expensive conflict goes down and new customers and suppliers emerge. The United States cannot maintain a hammerlock on global development, but with our relatively stable financial institutions and trading relationships, and our continued dominance as an exporter of culture, we have advantages that can sustain us. I'm not sure Kenny understands the value of that stability, compared to mining those institutions for giveaways to politically designated recipients. To an outsider, the machinery of production looks like raw materials for consumables.

Among the politics many useful notions. Importing doctors and nurses helps aging and challenged Americans. Moving food is easier than moving the water that grew it. Education and child health is expanding explosively around the world. Kenny does not mention Ricardo's Law, that specialization and trade are better than replication and isolation, but he gives many examples of Ricardo's Law at work on the planet. Moving stuff in ship's hulls is cheap; we spend more fuel growing food in nonoptimal places, and driving the groceries home from the store, than we do moving it around the world in ships. Best to let everyone do what they are good at, and if we really must have local production, then allow the producers to come here, or the consumers to go there.

The book is an argument against walls and barriers, and that selfishness and isolation impoverishes. My grandfather came to Portland Oregon in 1911, and both Sweden and the United States benefited from his journey. We must not impoverish the future because of ignorant fear and strangling red tape, imprisoning future citizens away from their future homes.

UpsideOfDown (last edited 2014-11-18 22:38:42 by KeithLofstrom)