Topic: Book Reviews

A unique 30 year portrait of a shanty town and its people

In 1978 Caroline Moser, a young British anthropologist went with her two children and film-maker husband to Indio Guayas, a new squatter settlement in the swamps surrounding the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. They built a 4 x 8 metre bamboo house joined to dry ground by long, rickety walkways, and lived there for 7 months […]

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Ha-Joon Chang uncovers what's worked in the history of agricultural policy

I vividly remember the impact of Ha-Joon Chang’s 2002 book ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’. At the time I was an NGO lobbyist on the WTO’s Doha round of trade talks, and Ha-Joon’s book showed how when they were still poor, today’s rich countries had systematically used the industrial policies and other forms of state management […]

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Can the law advance education and healthcare in poor countries?

I recently spent two weeks doing jury service in an inner London court – a grim experience of leaking municipal toilets, undrinkable coffee, frequently incompetent barristers and Dickensian judges, overseeing a squalid litany of petty crime. In between the alleged threats and beatings, I read Courting Social Justice, a new book on the use of […]

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Portfolios of the Poor – a great new book

Portfolios of the Poor gave me the same feeling of excitement as the World Bank’s epic ‘Voices of the Poor’ study. Both of them are the fruit of intense scrutiny of the real lives of poor people that uncovers insights and destroys stereotypes. Poor people are most definitely not financial illiterates, but often sophisticated managers […]

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War, Guns and Votes: what to make of Paul Collier’s latest book?

War, Guns and Votes builds on the strongest section of Collier’s best selling ‘Bottom Billion’ – his investigation of the ‘conflict trap’ that afflicts a disproportionate number of the poorest counties, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (Collier’s real passion). The book is in equal measure hugely stimulating and deeply exasperating. Stimulating because he is an original […]

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‘The Politics of Climate Change’ Verdict on Anthony Giddens’ new book? Please try harder….

This is definitely the right subject – enough of ‘if I ruled the world’ policy solutions by environmental snake-oil salesmen, what are the politics of getting a breakthrough on climate change in time to stop the earth frying? Giddens’ new book even gets in a dig at his fellow LSE peer Nicholas Stern, saying ‘”Extraordinarily, […]

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Putting the history back into economics: good new book from the FT’s Alan Beattie

‘False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World’, by Alan Beattie, the world trade editor at the Financial Times is published tomorrow in the UK and is already doing well in the US. It explores the historical backstory to current economic debates on trade, corruption, the ‘curse of wealth’ in oil and mineral producing nations, […]

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Dambisa Moyo goes stellar – why? Some reviews by fellow Africans and others, including me

The Dambisa Moyo phenomenon shows no signs of abating, with a front page story in the FT and an elevation this month to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. The publicity is also selling a lot of books – she’s currently 3rd in Amazon US sales rankings for books on ‘policy and current […]

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Why equity matters more than growth: The Spirit Level

‘Growth with Equity’ is motherhood and apple pie in economic policy-making these days. But in a great new book, Spirit Level, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue that ‘economic growth, for so long the great engine of progress, has, in the rich countries, largely finished its work.’ Above a certain average income (the authors […]

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Taxation and development: a great new book

Finally finished an illuminating book on the link between taxation and development: (Taxation and state-building in Developing Countries), edited by Deborah Brautigam, Odd-Helge Fjeldstad and Mick Moore). Here are a few highlights – a bit long, but I’m trying to summarize a densely argued 260 page book, so bear with me. Taxation is the new […]

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'Moving Out of Poverty': Outstanding new mega-study from the World Bank

One of the best books I have ever read on development was ‘Crying out for Change’, a summary of a massive late 1990s study by the World Bank called ‘Voices of the Poor’. So it was a delight to pick up the summary of its new and epic successor ‘The Moving Out of Poverty Study’ […]

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Final thought on Complexity Economics

This week, I’ve been mulling over Eric Beinhocker’s book, ‘The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics’ (see previous posts – an overview and a discussion of the implications for our models of change). One question that remains is ‘why aren’t there more books like this?’ The initial idea of  ‘Complexity Economics’ […]

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