Earlier this week in the FT I reviewed a new book on US economic policy by Glenn Hubbard and Peter Navarro: Seeds of Destruction: Why the Path to Economic Ruin Runs Through Washington, and How to Reclaim American Prosperity. I liked parts of it well enough, but overall was disappointed. They emphasise at the start their bipartisan approach–you know what a sucker I am for that–but then, on this at least, fail to deliver.
Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, was chairman of George Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers between 2001 and 2003. Navarro, a professor of business at the University of California, Irvine, “is a Democrat who ran for Congress with President Bill Clinton’s support”. It sounds promising. They are, the book says at the outset, two economists from “very different sides of the political aisle”.
As it turns out, not different enough. This is a good and useful book, but bipartisan it is not. It is decidedly conservative, and gets much of its drive, for good and ill, from the authors’ barely tempered disgust at the policies of the Obama administration.
Call me superficial, but something else annoyed me as well. Lists. Again with the lists.
The authors, keen on capitalised lists – Thomas Friedman has much to answer for – then nominate “Ten Levers of Growth”: competition, trade that is “free and fair”, entrepreneurship, savings, strong financial markets, innovation, human capital, reduced dependence on imported oil, cost-effective healthcare, and a strong manufacturing base. The rest of the book looks at the way economic policy – on taxes, trade, energy, welfare entitlements and so on – has pushed those levers, usually in the wrong direction. (Friedman would talk about exploding the levers or vaulting over them, so it could have been worse.)
Then again, as I say, there’s some good stuff in there. Read the whole review.