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From Subsistence to Exchange and Other Essays (New Forum Books) Paperback – April 25, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0691117829 ISBN-10: 0691117829

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Product Details

  • Series: New Forum Books
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691117829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691117829
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"For half a century, Peter Bauer has been a towering iconoclast among development economists, consistently unafraid to demolish conventional wisdom with penetrating insight. . . . [T]his excellent collection of essays. . . [is] a wonderful introduction to a mind that takes no prisoners."--The Economist

"Whether or not the reader agrees with [Bauer's] positions, they are carefully and thoughtfully argued. "--Foreign Affairs

"[Bauer] has also been interested in explaining the Zeitgeist which produced-and in many cases continues to project-the influential ideas and policies which are in such total disregard of readily observable reality. It is these reflections, contained in a number of essays in this book, which are likely to resonate with the general reader observing the contemporary world scene."--Deepak Lal, Times Literary Supplement

From the Inside Flap

"The essays here contain many of the key elements of Professor Bauer's thought, which I regard as an oasis of common sense in a desert of muddled thinking.... He goes after weak and self-serving explanations with commendable vigor."--Richard Epstein, University of Chicago

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eric Breitenstein on May 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"From Subsistence to Exchange: and other essays" (FSE), is a wonderfully insightful little book that throws light on the problems of the Third World economies, egalitarianism, the "mathematized" economics profession, and, among other things, offers rigorous arguments against foreign aid and Western guilt (for allegedly causing Third World poverty).
I found this book to be both a great introduction to development economics and Peter Bauer, as well as a handy catalog of refutations of popular economic myths. Additionally, the critical essay on the mathematization of the economics profession is valuable: It helps to buttress Bauer's thesis that economics is not an "ivory tower profession" (my words): It is a social science that must rely heavily on historical investigation and direct observation; it is not, nor can it ever be, like the natural sciences of physics and chemistry. The attempt to make it more "respectable" by hiding simple truths among complex formulae, or worse, by deriving conclusions from mathematical models that do not resemble the real world, has resulted in putting elaborate clothes on a non-existent emperor (Bauer's words). It has also fueled fallacious attacks on the entire field and reduced both public understanding of and respect for economics. Bauer's essay on that topic is a breath of fresh air.
In discussing popular myths, Bauer tackles the "viscous circle of poverty," among numerous others, e.g., that the West is rich because the Third World is poor. Often these myths are based on similar false premises. For example, the refutation of the vicious circle argument also undermines the exploitation one (noted above).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on February 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"We have sunk to such a depth that the restatement of the obvious has become the first duty of intelligent men." So wrote George Orwell, whom Peter Bauer quotes approvingly. Indeed, "From Subsistence to Exchange" is little more than an attempt to dispel popular misconceptions in the conventional wisdom of development economics.
The heart of Lord Bauer's argument is to take issue with the widespread excuses that have been put forth to explain why certain countries seem unable to prosper. Writing in times when state planning was in its intellectual apogee, Lord Bauer offered an alternative where the role of the individual and the market were central.
From this basic outlook follow many attacks on the fallacies of development economics. Lord Bauer dismisses with great ease the assumption that countries are poor due to the lack of adequate resources: at some point, he writes, every country was poor; if infusion of capital was a necessary condition for growth, then the West would still be living in the Stone Age.
But Lord Bauer does not stop there. He takes on other issues such as foreign aid. Not only is foreign aid based on the false premise of the vicious cycle of poverty, but it also creates a mentality of dependence. Even worse, the result in the recipient countries is the emergence of powerful interests whose sole purpose is to obtain a bigger piece of the aid cake.
Why then do rich countries offer so much aid? The answer for Lord Bauer is simple: guilt. Western and African intelligentsia does what it can to cultivate the belief that Africa's evils are of European doing. No matter that the evidence for this claim is scant or non-existent. After all, Lord Bauer writes, Africans were poor before Europeans got there and remain poor for long after they have left.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wendt on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book serves as a good introduction to the work of a leader in the field of economic development. Bauer would definitely be called a right-wing economist by those who need a simple classifier, but he might also be called libertarian or, like Amartya Sen is sometimes called, post-libertarian. As with so may economics books, the material is unbelieveably repetitive, being culled from articles and reworked speeches over about 20 years. The main points deal with the foolishness of foreign aid programs, the workings of collective guilt in promulgating said programs, the disregard and obfuscation of the results of these programs and other economic facts, and basic factors involved in the actual development of less-developed countries. Very good for someone interested in the literature of development, or someone who favors a more laissez-faire approach and has not read anything on development economics, a topic not often addressed in popular economics books.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Claffey on July 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
These are essays, which in the main were dissenting from the received wisdom of the 1970s concerning Third World - that population expansion was `out of control' and keeping people in debt, that there existed a vicious cycle of deprivation and so on.
His views on the supremacy of free trade, the counter productive nature of most forms of aid, and good local governance have become mainstream opinions, however they were not always so.
As this is a collection of transcripts and speeches, quite forceful language is used, and there is a lack of reference to empirical evidence, which I found quite disappointing - as anecdotal evidence is fine, but examples can also invoke counter examples e.g. if Hong Kong exemplifies the innate progress of motivated, free people in the absence of natural resources, secure boundaries and representative government then what does the economic progress of Mainland China represent?
His positive essays - Land and People, Population, Honk Kong, Western Aid and the title essay are very thought provoking and convincing. There is a challenging essay on egalitarianism - that people are born unequal in terms of talents, which is very thought provoking. However I was unhappy with his critical essays - on Western Guilt, the Liberal Death Wish as these had the flavour of an after dinner speech in a particularly reactionary dinner party. These seemed to be a wide ranging attack without purpose. It is quite useful to propose that wealth is a result of differential economic activity, but how useful is it to propose that western guilt about slavery is misguided because Arab countries practiced slavery more brutally for longer?
The book is worth reading for the title essay alone, and the introduction by Amartya Sen is erudite and intriguing. The key emphasis of the book is on freedom as the basis for development, freeing the individual within society to make progress and to retain the benefits of that progress.
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