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Commanding Heights - The Battle for the World Economy [VHS] (2002)

David Ogden Stiers , Tony Benn  |  NR |  VHS Tape
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: David Ogden Stiers, Tony Benn, Stephen G. Breyer, Barbara Castle, Milton Friedman
  • Format: Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 3
  • Studio: Wgbh / Pbs
  • VHS Release Date: May 14, 2002
  • Run Time: 360 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000065B49
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,490 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

The history and impact of the new global economy are made clear--and compelling--in Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy. This three-part, six-hour documentary does an astonishingly thorough job of dissecting and explaining macroeconomics and their current political and social importance without ever causing a loss of consciousness for the viewer. Part 1, The Battle of Ideas, chronicles the history of economic thought from the start of the 20th century and its socialist reforms right through the deregulation of the 1980s. Part 2, The Agony of Reform, explores the upheavals that such deregulation caused, focusing primarily on economic growth and gains and touching briefly on the wrenching consequences for the poor. Part 3, The New Rules of the Game, explores the consequences of globalization, including terrorism and the contagion of market collapse. The series makes good use of both large- and small-scale examples, and features interviews with several major world leaders. There is a slight teenybopper feel to The Battle for the World's Economy's admiration for today's celebrity economists, but the contagious enthusiasm is part of what makes the series so interesting. Big ideas are made extremely accessible to the average viewer (without condescension). Well worth watching. --Ali Davis

Product Description

This engrossing documentary, produced by Boston's prestigious WGBH, elaborates upon a fact of modern life: the world is figuratively shrinking, and as it does, we are linked in significant new ways to our global neighbors. Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw wrote the best-selling book upon which the series is based. And world leaders from 20 different countries—including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Mexico President Vincente Fox, and Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew—weigh in with incisive opinions about the immediate and long-range effects of globalization. 6 hours on 3 cassettes or 2 DVDs.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
171 of 202 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, but remember to use your brain July 10, 2004
By Dustin
When I first heard of this documentary it piqued my interest that such an ambitious and timely program existed. A quick background on me - I recently returned (2 months ago) from 7 months straight of traveling (Loop around Australia, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Philippines, Palau, Hong Kong, Qatar, UAE, London/Oxford) which was a follow up to a 3 month road trip around most of the US and 6 weeks in South America and 2 weeks in China. I'm still going! One of my travel themes has been to visit where things are made or processed, and where they come from - a critical aspect of globalization. From the tea plantations in Sri Lanka to the mixing & packaging of that tea from Sri Lanka and 50+ other countries for Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, CO, USA (Did you know there is only 1 tea plantation in the US? And they went bankrupt recently). Or the Silicon Valley of India - Bangalore - as shown in the movie, or strip coal mining in Gilette, Wyoming, the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, or the natural gas reserve rich deserts of Qatar, etc..

Like any documentary or book there is a perspective. The show does a good job of framing the debate. It covers the perspectives of many different influential individuals and some lay people - and in many different countries to boot - lending an air of authority - which is fine as an explanation for the documentary's position. It does provide coverage to both positives and negatives.

However, my sense is that the show is far too positive about what unrestrained globalization will bring us. Not about the process to get to a "free" market - as shown in the "Agony of Reform" episode, but about the side effects to our lives and the world in which a large portion of the world lives in.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and engaging March 25, 2004
For those who want an introduction to international economics and globalization, this is the thing to see. I agree with what the Washington Post said - "No more important program for making sense of our life and times has been seen in at least a decade." It made me want to be an economist.
In the first segment, it covers the development of economic theory through Keynes, Hayek, and Friedman, and the historic solutions and events between the war of 1914 and the 1970s, ending with the change of tack that accompanied Reagan and Thatcher's elections. In the second, it follows the "agony of reform" - that is, the paths taken by many states to transition from planned economies to market economies, following the cases of Russia, Poland, Chile, and Bolivia. The last segment follows the contemporary problems and methods of the global economy, with particular focus on crisis: mainly, the 1998 Asian Economic Crisis.
It is important to remember that this documentary is about economics, and that its concern is about the quality and quantity of wealth generated rather than externalities (the environment, &c.) Taken in this context, I think that it does extremely well: anyone who knows at least a little will leave the show literate in global economics. It does have a certain pro-globalization stint to it, though I hardly find that it is outright dismissive of globalization's criticisms: the second half of the third segment is entirely about arguments against globalization, and the first half of that segment is entirely about the crises that have rocked the global economy. And, after all, Jeffrey Sachs and Bill Clinton are two of their biggest commentators, who are at least pragmatic globalists (If the writers favor any viewpoint, it's Clinton and Sachs').
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82 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as everyone's saying May 11, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Do you remember being caught by surprise and totally baffled, way back in November 1999, upon seeing "Battle for Seattle" on CNN? You remember, that time all those protesters wreaked havoc on the World Trade Organization meeting?

Do you remember asking yourself what all those kids were so angry about, and what the WTO and the World Bank were really up to? In short, suddenly needing to catch up on all the stuff you had been missing?

Well, if you've always wanted clear explanations of these issues, you ain't gonna get them from this DVD set.

...not that it's not worth watching or buying. There is a lot in it that you will probably find interesting and informative.

Take, for example, the first DVD, which largely recounts the theoretical divisions between the competing economic philosophies of von Hayek and Keynes. This part of the series is very well-done and lays out complicated ideas in a super-clear visual way.

However, as the series unfolds, it becomes obvious that it is not living up to its early promise, while all the time hinting (as such documentaries are wont to do) that full revelation lies just around the corner.

For example, the first disk, as I say, does a swell job delineating the differences between Hayek's and Keynes's philosophies. However, although the narration makes it clear that toward the end of the century, Hayek's theories were finally coming into their own, they never really explain why.

They explain Hayek's theories as, essentially, that government should avoid vigorous taxing/spending policies, as this imperils our freedom. Fine.

But later, when his theories have gained the ascendancy, we're left to wonder why. How exactly were supply-sideism and Reaganomics endangering our freedom?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are into economics and wonder what's going on ...
If you are into economics and wonder what's going on with the world today, this is a must watch!! It will answer some of the questions you have!!
Published 3 days ago by Big Discounts
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great information on how the economy really works.
Published 9 days ago by anthony johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting way to learn about Economics
I thoroughly enjoyed this series and learned a lot from the documentary ! Yes it is concise, but it does weave a story of the Battle of Ideas: Keynesian thought vs the Austrian... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Orhedeia
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Series
This series is for the most part well written and excitingly produced.

In addition to a good reporting and exposition of key concepts, ideas, schools of thought and... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Trent Coleman
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary - Very Instructive and Insightful
I am through two of the videos and am so thankful that I finally found a documentary that both explains the basics of the economic theories of Keynes and Hayak and the practical... Read more
Published on February 18, 2012 by Jeremy Z
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best and most informative videos I've ever watched
Incredibly well rounded interviews including a broad set of opinions. I am amazed they were able to interview so many of the people directly involved in making the decisions that... Read more
Published on January 22, 2012 by L. Rodriguez
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Track
I haven't seen this product and lost track with it since it's been over years and I'm apologised for forgetting about it fter serious ill . Read more
Published on April 27, 2011 by J. Huynh
5.0 out of 5 stars Great intro to economics
I am a first year University student in Politics and Economics and I found this documentary series invaluable in giving me a grounding in the impact of economics through the 20th... Read more
Published on October 29, 2010 by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars A Balanced Look at Economics and the Global Financial Crisis
"Commanding Heights" gives a balanced look at Keynesian planned economies and Hayek's free market. While economics may not be the most entertaining subject for a film, this series... Read more
Published on September 24, 2010 by Tom Conder
4.0 out of 5 stars Commanding your attention
Free markets or central planning? Hayek or Keynes?

I have seen this documentary a couple of times since it came out and found it very informative and absorbing for it's... Read more
Published on July 3, 2010 by Rachel Grean
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