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Showing 1-10 of 20 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 68 reviews
on April 10, 2017
book's in good shape
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on August 17, 2010
A book like this is eye-opening because it brings into sharp focus many different and apparently unconnected events into a larger framework: Google's shutdown of its servers based in mainland China after disputes over censorship and sabotage with the government; the interruption of Blackberry services by Persian Gulf nations; the arrest of a Rio Tinto executive in China over allegations of industrial espionage; the difficulties that Western oil companies have in boosting reserves because of resource nationalism... As you read "The End of the Free Market", your mind goes click-click-click. All of these appear on the surface to be temporary hiccups in the process of ongoing globalization. But Bremmer's book challenges this complacency by arguing forcefully that this sort of conflict will actually become more frequent as the "rise of the rest" brings forth not a global free market but a much more complex landscape in which Western companies have to compete with "national champions" with partially protected local markets, multinationals struggle to penetrate smaller emerging markets whose resource nationalism can be subsidized by larger patrons such as Russia, China and even Brazil, and undemocratic governments successfully balance pressure from democratic countries and multilaterals by playing them off against more accommodating clients in the East or South.

Anyone who remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall probably nurtures the deep-lying conviction that capitalism has carried the day and that, despite catastrophes like the 2008 crisis, it will continue to do so for many decades to come, progressively breaking down barriers to trade and individual freedom. The daily drumbeat of news about China's ascendancy can reinforce the lazy notion that, despite problems such as an inflated property market or labor troubles, the process of economic liberalization will continue until eventually political liberalization is forced upon the Communist Party somewhere down the line. Bremmer replaces this vision with a more subtle scenario in which "state capitalism" freezes (or at least delays) the march toward worldwide liberal democracy while simultaneously reaping the benefits of local entrepreneurship.

In many ways, "The End of the Free Market" is a sober counterpoint to Fukuyama's epiphany, The End of History and the Last Man, of two decades ago. Crucially, Bremmer's thesis is not an exercise in futurology: he claims that "state capitalism" is already upon us, as many governments across the world combine different degrees of authoritarianism and free markets to strengthen their grip on power. And the cases of Google, Research in Motion and Rio Tinto (which he does not discuss since they postdate the writing of the book) do indeed seem to bear it out. However, the book is a not a pessimistic dystopia, simply an invitation to correct the evangelical notion that adoption of free market capitalism will lead automatically to free trade and liberal democracy. This is a good antidote to simplistic visions of the post-Cold War World.
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on May 25, 2010
The author makes sense of much of the post Communist/ Cold War era policies of various countries and multinational corporations in the new global economy. New players and referees are identified and qualified with thorough background and policy facts that the intermediate disciple of world politics would easily grasp. Cutting edge interdependent analysis is spot on and sure to drive a new realm of perspective and information on how we generally view the global network at the intersection of politics and economics. The book identifies the muddling of world governments in capitalist and global systems by encroaching POLITICAL means as it's intended driver. The author also puts American politics into the larger global context of the ideology spectrum and offers a partial prescription, (by way of, non secrecy, consistency, and stewardship in socio-economic philosophical terms) that both major American political parties (i.e., government officials) should heavily consider when representing the American People. Simply said: well done sir. Thank you for refining the American conversation once again and offering keen world business perspective that all global readers can come to terms with for the years ahead.

Excellent read (although maybe not for the light reader-- very dense material at times).
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on March 2, 2011
Nearly all book titles are intended more to sell copies than to illuminate. Rarely, however, is this so obviously the case as in Ian Bremmer's newest book, The End of the Free Market. This is a pity, because it is an illuminating and provocative read, though a more appropriate title would have been The Hijacking of the Free Market. For what Bremmer is really pointing to is not the demise of the market, but the co-opting of the market as a political tool--most notably in states historically hostile to markets, such as Russia, China, and India. He terms this new system state capitalism, an approach in which markets are utilized only so far as they do not undermine the established order.

Bremmer is hardly the first to make such an observation. Indeed, the story he tells is for the most part one familiar, at least in parts, to anyone who picks up a newspaper. He focuses on the remarkable transformation in economic fortunes China has managed without great alterations in political system. This state capitalism, he argues, is not confined to China, and indeed looks likely to spread following the chaos of the Great Recession and its apparent discrediting of Western free market capitalism. However, state capitalism is not an ideological movement like communism, fascism, or even free market democracy. The states that practice it are as diverse as the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, China, and Russia, and they do so in markedly different ways, to different degrees, and with different governing ideologies. What they all share is a commitment to preserving political stability, and a conviction that the key to doing so is the calculated use of free-market tools.

No, what distinguishes The End of the Free Market is not the novelty of its narrative. Rather, Bremmer's work is elevated above its often commonplace assertions by the clarity, confidence, and efficiency with which it is told. Bremmer has a knack for eloquently summarizing major economic and political trends in a remarkably short space; late in the book, for example, he encapsulates in an eight-line aside the reasoning behind modern economist's assertion that markets, not foreign aid, are the key to raising living standards in the developing world. This skill is equally evident on subjects that lie closer to his subject matter: A particularly strong instance is pages 135-136, in which he describes why Chinese national oil companies represent such a serious threat to any attempt by the West to punish tyrannical but oil-rich regimes. And while at times the rapid-fire introduction of new information can be dizzying, the sort of pithy analysis described above makes The End of the Free Market an excellent and compact analysis of the shifting and various realities of global politics.

What it is not, however, is an especially strong policy manual. While Bremmer has a central theme, and he focuses on that theme with an admirable intensity, he is reluctant to go further and graduate a theme into a thesis. It is often unclear, for example, whether state capitalism really represents a threat to true free-market capitalism. On the one hand, he at times argues that state capitalism, like socialism, communism, and fascism, will inevitably collapse in the face of the superior efficiency and innovation that truly free markets deliver. But if free markets have such inherent superiority, why is it necessary that free market defenders such as the United States and the European Union preach its gospel as aggressively as he counsels? Elsewhere, Bremmer has made it clear that he thinks state capitalism can be beneficial only in countries which are highly underdeveloped relative to their true potential, at which point its weaknesses will become clear; one wishes he had been similarly clear here (see "Planet Money Deep Read: Ian Bremmer," the June 2, 2010 episode of the excellent Planet Money economics podcast). And while few economists would argue with his conclusion that free market economies must guard carefully against protectionism, a policymaker might wonder what exactly, beyond keeping trade barriers low and talking up the virtues of a liberal economy, Bremmer would ask them to do.

Not only does The End of the Free Market lack serious policy prescriptions for the advanced economies, it is also missing an economic theory for the developing world. While he clearly believes that freer markets do more to lift people out of poverty and spur innovation and investment, Bremmer is not clear how one might introduce such an economic system into a country lacking transparent and effective government institutions and a history of free markets. If the Western mixed economy is superior, why is it that countries which have attempted to import it whole-cloth (Russia and South Africa in the 1990s, for instance) have faltered even as politically managed state capitalist countries have thrived (China since the 1970s, Russia since the 2000s)? These are failures Bremmer acknowledges, but does not fully explain. And while the challenges are indeed large (creating the institutions and mores upon which liberalism depends is notoriously time-consuming and difficult), it is difficult to see why anyone seeking to guide an economy through liberalization would choose Western, market-based democracy over Chinese, market-exploiting stable autocracy.

And yet, despite its lack of clear policy solutions and occasionally derivative character, The End of the Free Market is well worth reading. In particular, Bremmer makes a strong case that the broad geopolitical theories of the 1990s and early 2000s are well and truly dead. We are not entering the End of History predicted by Francis Fukuyama in which liberal democracy is the only ideology left standing; nor Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations between allied cultural and religious powers; and though Thomas Friedman is right that The World is Flat, he is wrong to conclude that this means cross-border ties will soon trump the nation state.

Rather, Bremmer draws on the insights of these and other theorists to posit that, while we are indeed leaving an era of overt hostility between states, we are entering a new era of a long economic struggle between those who truly believe in free markets, and those who merely utilize them. He is right to point out that, if genuinely free market states give in to the temptations of state capitalism, we will witness a startling decline in our ability innovate our way out of our increasingly complex environmental and economic problems. That he does so in a way that his work shines a light on the linkages and similarities among such economically and politically diverse states as China, Mexico, and India, and prepares the reader for the most economically important trend of the next decade, makes The End of the Free Market look not only interesting but vital.
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on June 30, 2010
Ian Bremmer's work outlines the political-economic ideology known as state capitalism. According to Bremmer, state capitalism is a form of capitalism in which "the state acts as the dominant economic player and uses markets primarily for political gain." Nations typical do this through the exploitation of natural resources, the utilization of select privately owned companies to dominate certain economic sectors, and use sovereign wealth funds to potentially manipulate other economies by investing in multi-national firms and purchasing bonds issued from other nation's treasuries. Nations that engage in this type of activities include, but are not limited to: China, Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and many others. Bremmer goes on to detail the implications on the global economy of what will happen should more nations engage in this behavior.

Three years ago, I read "The World Is Flat" and was amazed and energized about the global marketplace that Thomas Friedman described. The idea that advances in communications technology would allow us to conduct business without borders, decrease the costs of capital, spurn investment throughout the world and thus promote capitalism and freedom throughout the nation. A consequence that many economists didn't realize was that should the economy of a major nation fail, the possibility of systemic failure across the globe would be magnified. Another consequence has been the actions of nations to promote state capitalist policies that promote protectionism.

This book is very informative and forces the reader to look at our current global economy through a different perspective. I recommend it to anyone that has an interest in global economics.
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on August 8, 2011
In this book, the author discusses another type of competition that's becoming more and more of a threat each day. State capitalism.

Ian Bremmer takes the reader through an examination of how certain nations (China, Russia, UAE, and others) have become serious competitors to American businesses. Now, we all know China is becoming a serious competitor, but many of us don't understand exactly how. This book educates us.

The state capitalist nation is able to bankroll its up and coming businesses and negotiate deals with other nations in favor of those companies it finances. America has nothing like this and can suffer in the face of this new form of "capitalism."

This is a great read for any American who cares about their financial future.
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on June 23, 2010
Interesting look at the future of international economics. The financial crash of 2008 and subsequent years have brought forward a new international struggle between free markets and states. The regimes that practice state capitalism do so only to protect their political survival and not necessarily for the good of their citizens. This book discusses in great detail what this means for the international economic system in both the long and short term. I really enjoyed the book but would appreciate more information on how the international system, including the United States addresses this problem. Highly recommend for individuals interested in the future of international economics and relations.
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on September 27, 2012
Starting with a personal anecdote about a meeting with Vice Foreign Minister, He Yafei, he asked the author, "Now that the free market has failed, what do you think is the proper role of the state in the economy?" Ian Bremmer's book The End of the Free Market and the Rise of State Capitalism charts the rising trend of state capitalism in the developing world as an alternative and potential rival to the established free market system. In particular, he analyzes how the recent global recession has weakened the free market system by demonstrating its volatility and hardening attitudes around the world about market liberalization. Published in 2010, Bremmer's analysis comes after the initial chaos of the global recession in 08-09 and so is able to contrast before and after policies of the leading nations. He analyzes changes in geopolitics since the fall of communism and recounts the history of state capitalism amid the roots of mercantilism. For each of the prominent adherents to state capitalism, he explores a minor history of their degree of state capitalism and discusses the general principles they use to make decisions. He also goes into great detail about the flaws of state capitalism, its inefficiency, and potentially disastrous effects should more countries adopt it. The predictions are not all stark. By the end of the book he is advocating strategies for accommodating these emerging powers, but emphasizes that the United States has a key role in defusing tensions, integrating their economies, and encouraging eventual reform.

Bremmer grounds his opening argument in the debate about Fukuyama's End of History ideas. Contrary to popular opinion at the time, he claims that only one of the three predictions made by proponents of globalism like Fukuyama came true; communism would die, dictatorships would be replaced by democracies, and nation-states would become obsolete. Only communism died. He counters that although principles of liberal democracy such as elections have been adopted around the world, they are hardly fair or even democratic. New means of communication through the internet, instead of being subversive have been co-opted by the state propaganda network to strengthen authoritarian regimes. Massive companies with GDPs bigger than most countries were seen as another indicator of obsolete nation-states in the face of globalism, but have been hard-pressed to compete with state-run or state-favored companies. The failure of communism convinced many people that state-directed economies could not produce prosperity. Indeed, the massive trade growth, tariff reductions, and business expansion after the fall of the Soviet Union seemed to prove this. However, the recent arrival of multiple large companies from BRIC countries, usually state-controlled oil and gas like Gazprom and Petro China have contradicted this popular idea. Bremmer even points to the massive bailouts from both the United States and European countries for their own economies as proof that worldwide governments are controlling more of their economies.

Exploring the roots of state capitalism, Bremmer identifies a historical connection to mercantilism. He defines the United States and Western Europe as "mixed" capitalist economies, they manage common goods like education, welfare, and national defense, but are reliant on the market to generate both prosperity and ideas. In state capitalism, the idea of common goods extends to state-sanctioned companies and resources, but Bremmer insists that state capitalism is not simply "repackaged communism." Instead, he defines it as "a form of bureaucratically engineered capitalism particular to each government that practices it. It's a system in which the state dominates markets primarily for political gain." With a few reservations, Bremmer prefers to compare state capitalism to mercantilism which he calls "economic nationalism for the purpose of building a wealthy and powerful state." Like mercantilist states, they actively sought access or markets to resources and were obsessed with a positive trade surplus. Using China as an example, during the recession it curbed imports by subsidizing the manufacturing industry and hoarding foreign currencies to regulate the yuan. He is careful to clarify the many differences between the two systems, namely the false assumptions of finite wealth and fixed economies, though an argument could be made about the growing scarcity of natural resources. Because government behavior often uses a combination of free market and state capitalism to achieve their ends, Bremer insists that labeling countries state capitalist or free-market is problematic. He uses a scale to determine that countries like the United States and Japan are mostly free-market, but have recently been pushed left by the recession. Overall, he concludes that most countries have shifted towards free market capitalism in the last 20 years. In identifying state capitalists, he points to China and Russia as the most important examples or the reason "why we talk about state capitalism" but also goes into great detail discussing many countries who have adopted degrees of state capitalism. He identifies four distinctive elements in the state capitalist model; national oil companies, state-owned enterprises, privately-owned national companies, and sovereign wealth funds. For each of the countries listed in his book, he explores to what degree these countries use "oil, gas, and other commodities as political tools and strategic assets," or resource nationalism.

Overall, Bremmer sees the threat of state capitalism being overcome by the forces of free market capitalism. Unlike other pundits who worry that foreign countries like China and Russia can threaten the United States by calling in all their debts, Bremmer insists that a more likely scenario would be a refusal to extend further credit to the U.S. government. The recession also hurt the cause of free markets by convincing many state capitalist leaders that connections to the free market were hazardous. Furthermore, the recession showed that the G8 was not representational and that the G20 was too big to build consensus. Nevertheless, Bremmer insists that creative destruction can fuel future growth and that governments do occasionally relinquish control. He claims that state capitalist governments are fundamentally unstable and inefficient because they lack popular appeal and allocate resources based on what pleases the public rather than helps the economy. He dismisses any substantial military threat to U.S. power, but focuses on global shortages of key resources due to inefficient administration and an emphasis on growth. These governments also offer no-strings attached aid to repressive governments in order to secure resource concessions, but have difficulty aligning other interests because they lack a unifying ideology. He encourages the United States to continue investing in a strong military because as a public good it reduces arms races and escalating conflicts. He also advocates Americans to resist the urge to ban foreign investment or immigration and instead "Buy Chinese." He insists that China has explosive economic potential and by deepening ties with China, the United State not only benefits financially but could also apply gradual pressure to reform their markets and ensure that any politically motivated Chinese maneuver would be insured by a policy of "mutually assured economic destruction."

The End of the Free Market offers a coherent and succinct analysis of the current political dynamic. Bremmer is one of the first scholars to adequately treat the effects of the recession on geopolitics. He also offers compelling criticism of the state capitalist model and its profoundly short-sighted political potential versus the productive potential of a free market system. However, in retrospect some of his criticisms of state capitalism do not sound so critical. With good reason, he repeatedly claims that state capitalism is inherently inefficient, yet the Chinese economy continues to grow at 10% a year. Additionally, his discussion on sovereign wealth funds does a better job of selling the policy than repudiating it. His characterization of new means of communication being used by the government to control populations does not also consider the revolutionary impact that these new forms of communication have on government resistance. The recent events of the Arab Spring demonstrate just how powerful social media, smart phones, and the internet have been to protesters. If anything, several governments in the Middle East tried limiting internet access to prevent further protests.
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on March 18, 2014
Originally I saw Ian Bremmer hocking his new book on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart - he was compelling enough to get me interested in buying the book and I committed myself to getting right into it. Any book on economics will probably be dry, but Bremmer does a good job of keeping the reader interested and not bored to death. No doubt this book covers an interesting topic and I feel a little smarter after reading it.
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on July 5, 2013
I like Bremmer a lot but this isn't his strongest work. It's more of a polemic than a strong expository work. I didn't take away a strong conclusion from it, nor did I learn as much as I expected.
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