Forthcoming from Princeton University Press in May 2024.
The announcement page is here.
You can pre-order it on Amazon here.
“Soviet Power Plus Electrification: what is the long-run legacy of communism?” (with Wendy Carlin and Mark Schaffer), available here, published in Explorations in Economic History 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eeh.2012.07.003
Two decades after the end of central planning, we investigate the extent to which the advantages bequeathed by planning in terms of high investment in physical infrastructure and human capital compensated for the costs in allocative inefficiency and weak incentives for innovation. We assemble and analyse three separate types of evidence. First, we find that countries that were initially relatively poor prior to planning benefited more, as measured by long-run GDP per capita levels, from infrastructure and human capital than they suffered from weak market incentives. For initially relatively rich countries the opposite is true. Second, using various measures of physical stocks of infrastructure and human capital we show that at the end of planning, formerly planned countries had substantially different endowments from their contemporaneous market economy counterparts. However, these differences were much more important for poor than for rich countries. Finally, we use firm-level data to measure the cost of a wide range of constraints on firm performance, and we show that after more than a decade of transition in 2002-05, poor ex-planned economies differ much more from their market counterparts, in respect to both good and bad aspects of the planning legacy, than do relatively rich ones. However, the persistent beneficial legacy effects disappeared under the pressure of strong growth in the formerly planned economies in the run-up to the global financial crisis.
Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. By Laurent Dubois. Published in January 2012 by Metropolitan Books.
A remarkable history of Haiti since the revolution and independence. Excellently written, largely structured as narrative but with valuable discussions of many aspects of Haitian culture, economics and society; an eye-opener in its accounts of the many ways outsiders have used and imagined the country for their own purposes. A biography fully worthy of its subject, a troubled but remarkable country. Buy here.
The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker. Published October 2011 by Viking Penguin. Here is what I wrote about this book in BBC Focus Magazine:
The world has never been more violent place than it is today, right? Wrong! In this excellent and very readable book the psychologist Steven Pinker assembles massive amounts of evidence to show that for the average citizen the world is less violent now than it has ever been. More people died violently in the twentieth century than ever before, but thatâ€™s because the worldâ€™s population was so much greater. By any other standard â€“ the risk we each face of being murdered, raped, tortured â€“ we are safer now than ever. In fact, for the first time in the history of the world, an average person is more likely to die at their own hand than at someone elseâ€™s, unless that person is driving a car. Itâ€™s a remarkable achievement of modern society, even if it doesnâ€™t fit the fashionable nostalgia for a kinder, gentler past. But Pinkerâ€™s book is not triumphalist, and far from naÃ¯ve about the inner demons of our nature. Youâ€™ll learn things here about violence in history you might prefer not to know. Pinker wants to understand why violence has declined so that we can do our collective best to stop us ever going back. Understanding why Western Europe seems unlikely to repeat the carnage of the Thirty Years War may also help bring peace to those parts of the world â€“ Iraq, the Congo, Detroit â€“ where violence is still unacceptably high. It may even help to curb domestic violence and, if you believe Pinker, our cruelty to animals.Â Itâ€™s an ambitious agenda, but so is Pinkerâ€™s range (across criminology, psychology, history, economics and neuroscience). He emphasizes that the explanation lies not just in institutions like the law but also in subtle values and habits of thought. You may not agree with all of his account â€“ I donâ€™t â€“ but the questions are vital, the prose clear, the challenge exhilarating.Â The arguments are ones every awake citizen should reflect upon.Â Buy here.
Leningrad, by Anna Reid. Published August 2011 by Walker and Co.
An account from letters and journals of what it was like, for both attackers and defenders, to live through the two-and-a-half year siege of Leningrad that began in 1941, and in which around three-quarters of a million inhabitants of the city died of starvation.
Tags: History, War.