When Globalization Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana

James MacDonald. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-22963-4
In this succinct and thorough economic history, MacDonald (A Free Nation Deep in Debt) examines the theory that free trade ensures prosperity and prevents war. He finds that it might, when backed by a powerful force, such as the powerful British navy that ruled the 19th-century, or the American hegemony that marked the late 20th. Breaking down complex swaths of historical events and economic theories into manageable chunks, MacDonald posits that protectionism, imperial expansion, and increased militarism led to the bloody carnage of the First World War, and that the rise of “economic nationalism” helped incite the Second. His studied and balanced analysis cuts through the rhetoric of “national pride” to expose the pragmatic geopolitical issues at stake, explaining why the Cold War played out on fringes such as Korea and Vietnam (where Soviet expansion threatened Western access to resources), and how current tensions in the Middle East rest on a century-long struggle over access to oil. The lessons of history urge us, MacDonald concludes, to be wary of expansionist ambitions that resemble a “pre-1914 mind-set,” and to find peaceful solutions if the “hitherto unimagined destructiveness” of the previous century is not to repeat itself. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 01/06/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-374-71294-5
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-374-53597-1
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