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How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly---and the Stark Choices Ahead Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

4.0 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Flosnik] applies her signature posh British accent to Moyo's work [with] her competent, mostly straight delivery." ---AudioFile

About the Author

Dambisa Moyo is an international economist who writes on the macroeconomy and global affairs. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Aid, and she writes regularly for Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

Anne Flosnik is an accomplished, multi-award-winning British actress, with lead credits for stage, television, commercials, industrials, voice-overs, and audiobooks. She has garnered three AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and four Audie Award nominations.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio; Library - Unabridged CD edition (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1452630674
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452630670
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,046,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Gibbs on February 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
The world's most economically powerful nations have seen their wealth and dominant political position decline to the point where, today, they are about to forfeit all they have strived for - economic, military and political global supremacy, according to Dambisa Moyo in this book. The author explains that capital, labour and technology have been the pillars on which economic growth has been built, then goes on the describe how mismanagement of these factors is leading to certain decline.

Capital has been misallocated as a result of government policies supporting subsidized home ownership, encouraging a culture of debt and diverting capital away from productive investment in business. Labour has been misallocated by failing to take account of future pension costs, failing to educate sufficient people in useful professions like engineering, and encouraging people into the wrong pursuits by grossly overpaying sports stars. Technology has been misallocated by giving it away to Chinese manufacturers in return for cheap goods, rather than protecting it.

If we stick with the status quo, then all is lost, according to the author. China could falter, but that is an unlikely scenario. The US and Europe could fight back, but at present America does not appear to have the mettle. The author's preferred approach seems to be for the US to default on its loans, reckoning that China will suffer more than America.

As was the case with her previous book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, the author's diagnoses of the problems have some merit, although they are overly dramatic, but in my opinion her proposed solutions leave something to be desired. The book is an entertaining read, and the issues are presented in a way that will make the reader sit up and take notice.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What is disturbing about this book is not the argument Dr Moyo purports to make but the inadequate manner in which she makes it. Perhaps it's a reflection of Americans' self-critical mood at the moment that Amazon.com reviewers have heaped the book with praise, leaving only one reviewer level-headed enough to award the book just one star.

'How the West Was Lost' reads uneasily, shifting from a mildly didactic tone to energetic advocacy to journalistic analysis. It combines sweeping generalizations, a somewhat confused and tendentious reading of what constitutes the economic and social challenges currently facing the United States, and a cherry-picking approach to conditions in other countries, both developed and developing. It runs through the usual list of economic, financial and social difficulties now facing the United States, asserting that 'radical solutions, many of them offered in this book' must be adopted quickly before it's 'too late' (p xiii) to save the west 'from oblivion' (p 181). The reader then has to wait patiently for these radical solutions, which are offered briefly in the last few pages of the book. They include ' a serious revaluation of the US's role as virtually the sole underwriter of global public goods', by which the writer seems to be alluding the size of the Pentagon's global operations and budget; accepting the likely benefits of economic protectionism; addressing growing income inequalities in the US, and growing US welfare costs; saving more and spending less; and investing in the US to create a more skilled labor force and new technologies. She also proposes that the US defaults on its external debt so as to break the 'stranglehold of debt and dependence' it is, she says, gripped in by China and others.
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Format: Hardcover
The basic idea of How the West Was Lost is that Western democracies (especially the US) are basically throwing away all the advantages they built up in the last century. Asian countries are going to dominate not because they are better...but because we are being stupid. I don't agree with all the book's arguments, but I think it raises some very good points.

The best points are about what the author calls misallocation of both labor and capital. What this really comes down to is bad incentives. I think Moyo's argument that the US puts way too much emphasis on real estate is dead on. Building homes or fancy commercial buildings does not really create much innovation as compared with investing in industry or technology. Yet, real estate has always been THE way to get rich, and the investment capital flows accordingly. The result is inflated home and property values instead of new job-creating industries.

Moyo makes a similar argument about labor. She emphasizes sports stars, but I think a better example is Wall Street attracting so many smart people that could otherwise do something more productive. And then there's real estate again. How many people have jobs in construction, real estate agents, loan agents, title companies and everything else? Now of course, a lot of those bubble jobs are gone. I live in the SF bay area and know at least one person with a PhD in engineering who left working in tech to become a real estate agent back in 2005 because she could make so much more money. That is true misallocation of talent.

One important issue is how the incentives for the people at the top help create these problems.
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