Philippe Legrain’s “Aftershock”

It’s in front of me now. It’s a wide-ranging take on the problems and opportunities facing the world after the financial crisis, sweeping across banking, financial imbalances, climate change, locavorism, immigration, trade and the rise of the BRICs.

It’s nicely reported (Legrain travels widely) and has the clarity and the self-confidence of an Economist editorial – sometimes a little unnerving from a named author.

I focused on the chapters on climate change and banking. They are intended to inform the lay-reader and justify Legrain’s firmly-stated policy proposals, and they succeed admirably. More expert readers will not feel they are reading a radical new thesis but will enjoy the style and the colour.

On climate change, Legrain is a techno-optimist and a fan of electric cars, but did not lay much stress on the fact that electric cars don’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions by themselves. On banking, I was unconvinced by his proposal that “bankers’ bonuses” be paid in shares, to be held for a minimum of 20 years. It didn’t seem workable. (What counts as a “bonus”?) But I agreed with most of the rest of it. Philippe is clearly a fan of Willem Buiter and John Kay, which is no bad thing.

There’s a huge amount of good sense, sharply conveyed here. If Legrain occasionally fails to tie up loose ends in his arguments, the compensation is that he can cover plenty of ground.

Overall:the book deserves to do well, and I think it will.

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