Monday, September 12, 2011

A very small selection of books on India and globalization, intended for students and others who may be interested.

Of the literally scores of recent books on India in a globalized world, here's a very small selection to give you some background. Note: this list is intended for the student or reader without extensive prior knowledge of India, not for the expert who is looking for specialized readings.

Two important books by academic economists on India's economic reforms:

Jagdish Bhagwati, India in Transition: Freeing the Economy.

Arvind Panagariya, India: The Emerging Giant.

A couple of books from a few years ago for the general reader giving a flavour of India's economic reforms and the impact of globalization on India:

Gurcharan Das, India Unbound.

Pavan K. Varma, Being Indian.

An important recent book on India's foreign policy, which touches on globalization and economic issues as well:

David M. Malone, Does the Elephant Dance?: Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy.

Some more recent books on India in a globalized world, all well worth looking at:

Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India. By the former Financial Times correspondent in India, this book has been widely hailed.

Shashi Tharoor, From Midnight to Millennium and The Elephant, The Tiger, and the Cellphone. These two books by a prominent former UN official and current Indian politician make great reading.

A superb recent book on India intended for the general reader, which gives great background. A special feature is the original and important analysis of dynastic politics in India's parliamentary democracy.

Patrick French, India: A Portrait.

Two other recent books which give a great snapshot of contemporary India:

Anand Giridharadas, India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking.

Siddhartha Deb, The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A globalization reading list, compiled and annotated by my colleague and co-author, James Dean, slightly updated and amended.

Books on globalization

Four pre-meltdown classics:

Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents, New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Martin Wolf, Why Globalization Works, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005 and/or his earlier book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

All four are “pro-globalization”, although Stiglitz has many nuanced warnings. His book was important because in 2002 he had just got the Nobel Prize and that added credibility to his critique. He was perhaps the first highly respected mainstream economist to express doubts about the unambiguous benefits from all aspects of globalization.

Wolf is not an academic economist but he is perhaps the world’s top economic journalist. He writes for the Financial Times.

Friedman, who writes for the New York Times, is an equally well-respected journalist but not as sophisticated about economics as is Wolf.

 A sample of post-meltdown books:
The books below are a small sample of the plethora of books related to  globalization that have been written since the global financial meltdown of 2007 – 09.

Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm, Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance. Roubini is an NYU economics professor who came closer to predicting the crash than anyone else and is now a media celebrity.

Daniel Altman, Outrageous Fortunes.

Gordon Brown (ex-PM of Britain), Beyond the Crash.

John Cassidy (economics columnist for The New Yorker) How Markets Fail.

Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn, Globalization.

Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics. Krugman wrote this book before the meltdown and partially predicted it. Read the revised edition, revised after the meltdown. Krugman is a Nobel prize winner, Professor of Economics at Princeton, and columnist for the New York Times.

Simon Johnson and James Kwak, 13 Bankers.

Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, This Time is Different. This is the definitive empirical study of financial crises, drawing from decades of meltdowns and using state-of-the-art econometrics.

Vietra Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy. Light-hearted but very instructive.

Joseph Quinlan, The Last Economic Superpower. If you are interested in the broad political and economic implications of 21st century globalization for the US, read this.

Stephen Roach, The Next Asia. By one of Wall Street’s gurus.

Robert Schiller, Irrational Exuberance. This book became a best seller because it predicted the US housing crash that triggered the global financial crisis in 2007. Schiller is Professor of Economics at Yale and best known for his work on “behavioral” economics, that draws heavily from psychology.

Joseph Stiglitz, Freefall. This is an excellent and readable analysis about what brought down global financial markets in 2007 -09, grounded in the economics of imperfect information that got Stiglitz the Nobel Prize.

Michael Lewis, The Big Short. Short’s book is hilarious. It traces the collapse of Wall Street’s mortgage-backed-securities market, that spread globally, by focusing on half a dozen major players. It is not only very funny and readable, it is the best non-technical explanation of the financial derivatives markets I’ve ever read. 

Another recent book by Michael Lewis is a collection of short essays about financial crises:

Michael Lewis, Panic.

And from a noted academic critic of globalization, a recent book:

Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox.

An important book by a former IMF chief economist on the financial crisis and aftermath:

Raghuram Rajan, Fault Lines.

Finally, a book that is not exclusively about globalization or financial meltdown, nor is it written by an economist. But it makes a powerful economic argument for optimism about human progress and prosperity: gains from trade, especially international trade.

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist. Ridley wrote the best selling book, Genome. He writes brilliantly about human evolution and genetics – and now, economics.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Event announcement!

For those of you in the National Capital Region in India, come and take part in an interactive roundtable seminar on globalization. Our themes include: India in the global economy, the rise of the BRICs, and economic reforms in India.

When: 20th January 2011, 5.30 - 7.00 pm

Where: India International Centre, New Delhi, Conference Room I (above the library).

Speakers: We have an eminent panel including Shri Nitin Pai of the Takshashila Institution, Chennai; Professor Ashutosh Varshney, Brown University, USA; Shri Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, journalist and documentary filmmaker, New Delhi. Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, M.P. (Rajya Sabha), former Union Cabinet Minister, is also invited. I shall moderate.

For those unable to be there, the event will be videotaped, and posted to my Vimeo page in due course.

For further updates, please follow me on Twitter @vdehejia.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My latest for INI on the use and abuse of language

Everyday Economics: Why agree on a fixed taxi fare when they have meters?

Having spent this past week in Bangalore, India, I've been getting around by auto-rickshaw -- you've seen them, right? The three-wheeled contraptions that are ubiquitous in Asia as a convenient mode of transport and substitute for a taxi. Small and nimble, they work their way through chaotic traffic and get you to your destination faster than your Porsche (if you have one -- I don't), which would be mired in traffic from the moment you left home.

Now, the Bangalore variety of these autos have meters, snazzy new ones in fact. Fact is, most drivers and most passengers prefer to negotiate a fare in advance rather than go by the meter. I asked myself why. Several possibilities presented themselves. Let me know what you think and if there are others you could add.

1. Eliminate nuisance and minimize transaction costs. At flag drop, the meter starts at 17 rupees. A short ride will cost you 17, or 21, if it the meter has "clicked" once. Most people don't carry small change -- in fact coins are being phased out in India, and even a one rupee coin is hard to come by. So for short fares you generally just settle on twenty rupees.

2. For longer fares, I can think of a couple of explanations. The first is that, assuming a well-informed passenger as well as driver, you know roughly what the fare will come to for a trip you take often. For instance, from where I'm staying to the snazzy new Mantri Mall (I go there purely for sociological research, if you're interested), I know from past experience taking metered rides that it costs anywhere from ninety to 110 rupees. So the driver and I normally settle on a nice round figure in between, one hundred. This eliminates the driver's incentive to, say, take a circuitous route, or deliberately busy streets, to try to ring up the metered fare.

3. Another possibility: For longer fares, agreeing on a fare in advance eliminates uncertainty which is bad for both driver and passenger. For instance, a fare which on average is a hundred rupees, might be ninety if traffic is unusually light or 110 if unusually heavy. By agreeing on a hundred in advance, assuming both driver and passenger are risk-averse, both come out ahead.

So why would anyone go by the meter? If you don't know your way around the city, you might prefer a meter, but then you run the risk of being fleeced by the driver. Of course, he could also fleece you by asking for an excessively high fixed fare in advance. Not sure about this one. Any thoughts?

Vivek H. Dehejia, economist and writer, comments on the politics of economics in India. You may follow him on Twitter @vdehejia.