Friday, September 24, 2010

Stephen King's 5 best books on globalization

Stephen King is HSBC’s Group Chief Economist and the global head of economics and asset allocation research at the bank, where he has worked since 1988. He is the author of Losing Control: The Emerging Threats to Western Prosperity, and since 2001 has written a weekly column in The Independent.

For FiveBooks, he discussed five books on globalization with Tom Dannet. One novel he mentioned:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

This was first published in 1939 while the US was still grappling with the Depression, and what is brilliant about it – it’s a very harrowing read, of course – is that it reveals that economic problems can’t just be dealt with through some wave of the free-market magic wand. The sufferings that the family in this book go through you wouldn’t wish upon anybody, but their sufferings in part come about through a mixture of misfortune, misjudgment and bad luck. I think that this sense of people finding themselves hugely disadvantaged is something that has a modern-day connotation – the whole debate about immigration today is tied up with this. In both cases it’s about migrant labour. In The Grapes of Wrath it’s migrant labour from within the US, and it’s those people who are often the most vulnerable. This is the human aspect of that story, and I think that Steinbeck summarised much of what happened in the Great Depression far better than many economists did, because he really dealt with the true losses that came through for people who just happened to be down on their luck. It may still be possible to argue that free markets are the best option, but it’s important to realise that even if they’re the best option, they may not give you a perfect result. The danger people fall into is thinking it does.
Read about another book on King's list.

The Grapes of Wrath also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best pieces of fruit in literature and among Honor Blackman's six best books. It is one of Frederic Raphael's top ten talkative novels.

Also see Moisés Naím's top ten books on globalization.

--Marshal Zeringue