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Showing 1-10 of 52 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 72 reviews
on July 8, 2014
Glen Hubbard and Tim Kane take us on a trip down memory lane, examining a number of major nations and empires along the way. One of the things that contributed to the Fall of Rome turns out to have been the relentless devaluation of the currency. Who would have guessed that even the Romans developed the habit of making financial commitments the exceeded their ability to make good on those commitments. The government in Rome tried to make the currency stretch further by mixing lead into the silver coinage. Naturally that didn't work out the way they wanted.
Through the ages Kane and Hubbard expose the many ways that governments have tried unsuccessfully to thwart, avoid or simply violate the laws of economics. The Ottomans used their people as financial goats to be milked and then eaten. That was not a good long term plan. Spain had a river of gold and silver flow to it from the Americans for centuries but at the end of the day Spain ended up with nothing but lost wars to show for the unprecedented wealth that slipped through the nation's collective fingers.
I found the section on modern California both fascinating and frightening. The authors explanations of how California got into such a fix left no details, however complex, un-examined.
The authors, at once academics and economists-professions not known for either clarity or brevity-managed to produce a work that is accessible to the layman. Which is exactly what we laymen need to help us understand how very badly our political masters have miss-managed our nation's financial well being. In fact, they have gone a long ways to have put us all on the slide to history's refuse pile. All of the errors, mistakes, miscalculations and out right frauds committed by our leaders have predictable even inevitable results.
But we suffer from their maleficence as will our children and perhaps their children....
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on November 19, 2013
Hubbard and Kane’s book starts out strong. They propose a thesis about the fiscal threat to American power and develop it by explaining it in hard number terms. They review most of the standard declinism literature and find it wanting versus their more empirical approach. Their discussion of how to measure economic power is worthwhile whether you agree or disagree with anything else in the book.

However, when they turn to their case studies things start to get less precise. The case studies (Rome, China,Spain, etc) are presented fairly enough and anyone who has read similar studies will recognize most of the points being made. My complaint with this approach is that they are following the descriptive method they complained about earlier without adding anything new to the standard analysis. For example, the concept of centralized bureaucracy. If you identify that one of the issues that led to a fiscal decline was a too centralized bureaucracy, how would you count it? Is there a tipping point where the percentage of the elite class being employed by the government becomes too much? This would be something to try to quantify if you are attempting a more empirical approach to this subject.

By the time we get to the end of the book and begin discussing the current US situation, along with the authors proscription, there is not much different than any other political opinion piece. A book that I felt started out with high promise, in the end disappointed.

References, notes, and index all top rate.
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on March 15, 2015
The complete economics Bible from the beginning to now! So much research went into this book, and it does show how the Economies of the world's greatest powers drive the history of the planet!
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on July 21, 2013
The author makes convincing arguments that the great empires have all fallen because of currency debasement or debt. The combination of welfare expenses, defense costs, and wasteful, lavish spending in each of his examples grew beyond the ability of the tax base to sustain the outlays. In each example he points to excess spending precipitated by an attempt of the regimen to remain in power. After analyzing the erstwhile great powers he compares the current economic path of California with those failed states.

The author offers solutions for the U.S. to avoid these past mistakes but in my view he should have devoted more ink to how the creation of a middle class is possible only with economic growth encouraged by free market, Adam Smith concepts.
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on July 7, 2013
Overall a pretty good read. I think the authors are right in that when institutions stop focusing on how to benefit society and start focusing on benefiting themselves, societies become short-sighted and run into fiscal disaster.
I disagree with the authors' reason for why this is happening in the US. I think the real reason is the primary system. The idea behind the primary system was to "empower" the citizenry to select their candidates, rather than having the parties select candidates. The result is that the most motivated people, who are naturally the most ideological, drive the candidate selection process. Most of us never vote in a primary, because we have better things to do than immerse our lives in politics. When election time comes around, we're presented with 2 candidates who represent the extremes of the political spectrum, and we're left with a choice between the lesser of 2 evils.
Contrast this with our typical choices when party bosses selected candidates behind closed doors 'in smoke filled rooms'. Each party had the incentive to select a centrist candidate in hopes of winning the moderate voters over. Resulting in a Congress with more moderate members, and more willingness to work together.
Primaries - yet another great idea that turned out to be a disaster in the real world from the intellectuals trying to make over our country.
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on September 21, 2014
A skilled interlacing of political and economic influences in the decay and eventual demise of empires gone by.with insightful predictions of the applicability to the present day world and its many unsustainable governments.
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on July 5, 2013
Balance by Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane was a fast and interesting read and a hard case to make without solid historical data especially Rome and ancient China. Nonetheless, being a naïve reader, I found the central thesis interesting and there was enough to build an argument around economic institutional foundations and failures begin the big slide into declination: Why Great Powers fail? Whether this concept explains the totality of the failure remains to be tested. Nonetheless, there was a factual error on page 95. St. Thomas Aquinas was not living in the 10th Century but rather in the 13th Century. Thanks!
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on August 2, 2014
When I purchased this book, i thought it would be more historical and less political, but it opens with a dire warning about the current fiscal state of the United States. I wish it focused more on historical examples and less on current events and let the reader make their own conclusion. This is why I give it 4 and not 5 stars. Otherwise it was insightful and provided 'food for thought' for the collapse of various civilizations throughout history.
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on June 20, 2013
From Rome through Spain, Ottomans, and coming up, California. Shows the erosive effects of government control and deficit spending over time. A cautionary tale for our state and federal governments. Should be required reading for politicians
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on July 6, 2014
If want to get a historical context of the great empires in history, this book covers it. Along with that understanding of the past, the book begins to explain what actions the United States need to take to maintain its position as a preeminent power on the world stage.
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