The years since World War II have seen rapid shifts in the relative positions of different countries and regions. Leading political economist Mancur Olson offers a new and compelling theory to explain these shifts in fortune and then tests his theory against evidence from many periods of history and many parts of the world. "[T]his elegant, readable book...sets out to explain why economies succumb to the 'British disease,' the kind of stagnation and demoralization that is now sweeping Europe and North America...A convincing book that could make a big difference in the way we think about modern economic problems."--Peter Passell, The New York Times Book Review "Schumpeter and Keynes would have hailed the insights Olson gives into the sicknesses of the modern mixed economy."--Paul A. Samuelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology "One of the really important books in social science of the past half-century."--Scott Gordon, The Canadian Journal of Economics "The thesis of this brilliant book is that the longer a society enjoys political stability, the more likely it is to develop powerful special-interest lobbies that in turn make it less efficient economically."
--Charles Peters, The Washington Monthly "Remarkable. The fundamental ideas are simple, yet they provide insight into a wide array of social and historical issues...The Rise and Decline of Nations promises to be a subject of productive interdisciplinary argument for years to come."--Robert O. Keohane, Journal of Economic Literature "I urgently recommend it to all economists and to a great many non-economists."--Gordon Tullock, Public Choice "Olson's theory is illuminating and there is no doubt that The Rise and Decline of Nations will exert much influence on ideas and politics for many decades to come."--Pierre Lemieux, Reason Co-winner of the 1983 American Political Science Association's Gladys M. Kammerer Award for the best book on U.S. national policy
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US Kirkus Review »
The title may presage an awful lot for one book, but University of Maryland economist Olson is in the business of constructing theories that explain a lot in the simplest way. His Logic of Collective Action (1971) made a big social-science splash by arguing that people can't act for the public good in large groups because the personal sacrifice appears to outweigh the collective benefit, ha this follow-up, he extends his theory to say that those groups that can form for collective action-because they are small enough, and/or are able to employ sanctions to get people to join (e.g., union picketing) - will take time to get going (because of "start-up costs"), and therefore require a stable environment. Since these groups seek to get more for themselves, they are detrimental to the efficiency of the economy as a whole. It follows that the various problems associated with the "ungovernability" of democracies stem from the proliferation of collective-action groups. The English malaise isn't hard to figure out - Britain has the longest history of stability. That doesn't mean that Olson advocates instability to foster economic growth; in fact, his prescriptions are as orthodox as the accepted microeconomic theories (i.e., theories of individual and firm behavior) that are the bedrock of his construct. Rather than revolution, he favors government action to free up trade through reductions in tariffs and protective barriers. In the course of filling out his theory with empirical evidence, Olson drags in everything from Jacksonian America to the Indian caste system. The late-19th-century Japanese leap is seen here to have resulted from the destruction of Japan's internal barriers by the demands of Britain and the Western powers for free trade. But while laissez faire worked to destroy cartelization in Japan, it did not do so in India - where the caste system, unchallenged by governmental authority, prevailed. So Olson is not an unbridled advocate of the dogmas, as he calls them, of the left or the right. His analysis of stagflation is based on the implications of the overall theory - and calls, at the moment, for shorter-term contracts at lower wage rates. Whatever its merits, the theory will have appeal. (Kirkus Reviews)
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