Book Reviews

  • Mark Harrison
    Yale Press, 2012
    ISBN: 0300123574

    Over the centuries, new diseases emerged and followed the trails of commerce, triggering panic and a rash of policymaking. As traders moved goods across longer distances, policymakers and investigators struggled to identify rats and mosquitoes as vectors for bubonic plague and yellow fever, respectively, or contaminated drinking water as a source for cholera. Contagion: How Commerce Has Spread Disease by Mark Harrison, professor of the history of medicine with University of Oxford, focuses on centuries of public response to contagious diseases and development of international boards, standards and regulations. In her review, Susan Froetschel suggests the broad lessons on policymaking could be useful for public managers of other cross-border challenges such as climate change.

  • Karen Eggleston and Shripad Tuljapurkar, Editors
    The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2012
    ISBN: 1931368201

    Demographers, economists and policy analysts pore over population statistics to predict the future. Medical advances throughout the 20th century lowered infant mortality, extended average lifespans and contributed to population growth. As women increasingly choose to have fewer children, more governments can anticipate population decline and a greater proportion of elderly citizens. Asian nations respond to these shifting demographics, combining modern elements of health care with traditional perspectives, explains Aging Asia: The Economic and Social Implications of Rapid Demographic Change in China, Japan and South Korea.  With early policy planning, older populations need not pose financial or social crisis.

  • Sharmila Joshi, Editor
    Gateway House, Indian Council on Global Relations, 2012
    ISBN:

    South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a regional organization that aims to achieve political and economic cooperation of eight nations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India, as the largest of these both in terms of land area and population, can overwhelm other SAARC members. Neighbourhood Views is a collection of essays marking SAARC’s 27th anniversary, crafted to examine India’s relations with the other seven member states and offer recommendations. The publication represents a mature and sincere gesture, intended to improve and reinforce relations after a century of bitter divisions throughout the region.

  • Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström
    Routledge, 2012
    ISBN: 0415539692

    Reckless speculation with natural resources could be more dangerous than speculation in the financial markets, warn Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström in their book, Bankrupting Nature: Denying Our Planetary Boundaries. Ultimately, the financial world and every human being depend on a stable environment. Wijkman is advisor at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden, and co-president of the Club of Rome. Rockström is a professor in Natural Resource Management, Stockholm University, and executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center. The book addresses climate change along with the larger issue of an economic system and global population that are no longer sustainable. The globe is confronting multiple interconnected crises that require systematic change rather than minimal adjustments. 

  • Edward N. Luttwak
    Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2012
    ISBN:

    Media in the West frequently suggest that China is on a trajectory to become the world’s leading economy and superpower. Edward Luttwak argues that China, because of its history and geostrategic position in the world, confronts a choice. It can become an economic power or military power, but cannot achieve both. In his review, BBC editor Alistair Burnett outlines the argument and evidence. History suggests that a country bordering many states – and China has 14 neighbors – will struggle to overcome wariness and their inclination for balance by forming ties with rivals like the United States. Burnett finds Luttwak’s evidence intriguing, yet warns that China has overcome many challenges and could buck the historical trend.

  • Fawaz A. Gerges
    Palgrave, Macmillan, 2012
    ISBN: 0230113818

    Writing for YaleGlobal over the years, international relations professor Fawaz A. Gerges has issued many astute early warnings on the Middle East – about desires for freedom stirring in the autocratic regimes, the War in Iraq disrupting the West’s battle for hearts and minds throughout the Muslim world, and the enduring nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for galvanizing extremism. His book analyzing the US role in the Middle East in recent years is must reading for anyone who cares about the region, suggests Susan Froetschel in her review of Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? The assessment shows how political polarization is weakening the US, forcing its president to be more ordinary than extraordinary. Gerges recommends that the US embrace balanced policies to maintain influence in the region.

  • Edward Luce
    Little Brown and Company, 2012
    ISBN: 1408702754

    Unless bolstered by evidence and reasoning, cheery optimism is not reassuring. Edward Luce, with the Financial Times, scolds the United States for squandering its influence in Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline. Politicians and citizens, increasingly polarized over ridiculous issues, studiously ignore the many global-scale problems at hand. The nation could emerge strong once again by bolstering the middle class, investing in education and infrastructure, and emphasizing innovation. Reviewer Alistair Burnett, editor of BBC’s The World, compares the criticism to a stern wake-up call from a friend.   

  • Katherine Fierlbeck
    University of Toronto Press, 2011
    ISBN: 978-1-4426-4003-0

    For developed nations with aging populations or developing nations investing in new programs, cross-country comparisons of health-care systems and their financing mechanisms are useful for containing health-care costs. Political scientist Katherine Fierlbeck offers a model for such comparisons with her book Health Care in Canada: A Citizen’s Guide to Policy and Politics. The costs and benefits of Canada’s largely public system versus those of the largely for-profit US system are compared. The two systems were similar during World War II, but diverged on separate financing paths afterward. Canada’s public system has flaws and limits, yet has achieved the superior results, and Fierlbeck offers cautions on cross-border influences from the US and its corporate model of health care.

  • Lester R. Brown
    W.W. Norton and Company, 2011
    ISBN: 978-0-393-33949-9

    Food-price stability depends on good harvests year after year, and extreme weather events increasingly test agriculture’s ability to meet demands of a growing population. In “World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse,” Earth Policy Institute President Lester R. Brown analyzes the interconnections of water, energy, food security, climate and failing states. Half the book addresses the challenges awaiting governments for the 21st century, and the other half provides a plan, with Brown optimistic that the world can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2020. The plan’s centerpiece: reducing income taxes and raising taxes on carbon. Reviewer Susan Froetschel recommends the book as an investment guide for the 21st century.

  • Hakan Altinay, Editor
    Brookings Institution Press, 2011
    ISBN: 978-0-8157-2141-3

    Increasingly confounding nations are problems of global scale. To negotiate resolutions, citizens and leaders must delve into global civics lessons and understand the political processes, argues Hakan Altinay, Brookings Institution fellow and editor of Global Civics Responsibilities and Rights in an Interdependent World.  Citizens ignorant of World Bank, World Trade Organization or United Nations operations can’t debate or rally behind decisions. Altinay’s proposal addresses a pressing need, notes reviewer Susan Froetschel, and global civics could strengthen institutions of global governance. If educators develop global civics programs, then reasonable and coordinated policy may soon follow. 

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