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To understand how humans react and adapt to economic change we need to study people who live in harsh environments. From war zones, natural disasters and failed states, to aging societies and the challenges of technological advancement, every life in this book has been hit by a seismic shock, violently broken or changed in some way. People living in these odd and marginal p To understand how humans react and adapt to economic change we need to study people who live in harsh environments. From war zones, natural disasters and failed states, to aging societies and the challenges of technological advancement, every life in this book has been hit by a seismic shock, violently broken or changed in some way. People living in these odd and marginal places are ignored by number crunching economists and political pollsters alike. Science suggests this is a mistake. This book tells the personal stories of humans living in extreme situations, and of the financial infrastructure they create. Here, economies are not concerned with the familiar stock market crashes, housing crises, or banking scandals of the financial pages. In his quest for a purer view of how economies succeed and fail, Richard Davies takes the reader off the beaten path to places where part of the economy has been repressed, removed, destroyed or turbocharged. By travelling to each of them and discovering what life is really like, Extreme Economies tells small stories that shed light on today’s biggest economic questions, with vital lessons for our future.


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To understand how humans react and adapt to economic change we need to study people who live in harsh environments. From war zones, natural disasters and failed states, to aging societies and the challenges of technological advancement, every life in this book has been hit by a seismic shock, violently broken or changed in some way. People living in these odd and marginal p To understand how humans react and adapt to economic change we need to study people who live in harsh environments. From war zones, natural disasters and failed states, to aging societies and the challenges of technological advancement, every life in this book has been hit by a seismic shock, violently broken or changed in some way. People living in these odd and marginal places are ignored by number crunching economists and political pollsters alike. Science suggests this is a mistake. This book tells the personal stories of humans living in extreme situations, and of the financial infrastructure they create. Here, economies are not concerned with the familiar stock market crashes, housing crises, or banking scandals of the financial pages. In his quest for a purer view of how economies succeed and fail, Richard Davies takes the reader off the beaten path to places where part of the economy has been repressed, removed, destroyed or turbocharged. By travelling to each of them and discovering what life is really like, Extreme Economies tells small stories that shed light on today’s biggest economic questions, with vital lessons for our future.

30 review for Extreme Economies: Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    The name of the book is Extreme Economies, not Extreme Economics and the idea behind it is intriguing. Richard Davies visits cities, regions and cities that are experiencing today what most of the world will probably be experiencing in a few years time, such as disaster, aging, inequality and technology replacing human jobs. It is economic prediction by extreme. He is highly successful, by mixing personal testaments with more deep economic analysis. My feeling is that he is able to paint a coher The name of the book is Extreme Economies, not Extreme Economics and the idea behind it is intriguing. Richard Davies visits cities, regions and cities that are experiencing today what most of the world will probably be experiencing in a few years time, such as disaster, aging, inequality and technology replacing human jobs. It is economic prediction by extreme. He is highly successful, by mixing personal testaments with more deep economic analysis. My feeling is that he is able to paint a coherent picture and reach some intuitive conclusions regarding human behaviour and how to cope with challenges.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    Extreme Economies : Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits (2019) by Richard Davies is an excellent book that has chapters on extreme economies around the world. Davies is the former economics editor of The Economist and is an economics fellow at the LSE. He may also have founded Supertramp, but perhaps not. Russ Roberts also recently interviewed Davies on Econtalk for anyone who wants to get an idea of whats in the book.  The places examined are grouped into three groups, su Extreme Economies : Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits (2019) by Richard Davies is an excellent book that has chapters on extreme economies around the world. Davies is the former economics editor of The Economist and is an economics fellow at the LSE. He may also have founded Supertramp, but perhaps not. Russ Roberts also recently interviewed Davies on Econtalk for anyone who wants to get an idea of whats in the book.  The places examined are grouped into three groups, survival, failure and future. In the survival section there is Aceh after the Tsunami, the Syrian refugee camps of Zataari and a Lousiana high security prison. In the failure section is Glasgow, the city of Kinshasa and the Darien Gap between South and Central America. In the future section Akita, a very aged part of Japan, Talin for technology and Santiago for inequality are examined.  It's hard to extract highlights from the book because most of the chapters are really fascinating. Zataari and the Lousiana prison are really remarkable. The examination of the currencies that people create is amazing. The section on Akita was also really illuminating. But all the chapters are really interesting.  Extreme Economies is very well written and is very accessible. It's a fascinating and highly enjoyable read. For anyone interested in economics and popular economics books it's definitely worth a look. 

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    In Extreme Economies, Richard Davies combines a background in journalism and economics as he asks what we can learn from extreme economies that have survived in the face of catastrophe, that have failed in spite of advantage, and that seem like windows into the future. Not only does Davies go to many places that I would struggle to locate on a map, but he also considers problems that I think many people don't think about. By this I mean that while people know there are refugee camps, I doubt man In Extreme Economies, Richard Davies combines a background in journalism and economics as he asks what we can learn from extreme economies that have survived in the face of catastrophe, that have failed in spite of advantage, and that seem like windows into the future. Not only does Davies go to many places that I would struggle to locate on a map, but he also considers problems that I think many people don't think about. By this I mean that while people know there are refugee camps, I doubt many can say where they are, how they're run, or even who runs them. People might know that Japan has an ageing population, but what other countries face shrinking populations? (Nearly every country in the West has an ageing population and often a conservative one that a) insists on longterm care in retirement and b) opposes increasing immigration to pay for it. How will that happen?) Extreme Economies left me with a deeper appreciation of the economy, GDP, income inequality, institutional strength, international awareness, and also the idea of social capital. If Davies has a blind spot, it's climate and ecology, but, ironic or not, he is hardly the only economist who struggles in that regard. Notes.(view spoiler)[ Turning the annoying and patronizing e-credit into cash is simple, once you know how to do it. Families buy a large bag of powdered milk for 9 dinars in cash. The smuggler then slips out of the camp, past the SRAD guards, and resells the milk for 8 dinars to Jordanians driving past, who are happy to buy at this price. [...] This money can be spent on anything that the camp offers. And thanks to the ingenuity of its residents, Zaatari offers a lot. Pg. 53. There are 2.1 million prisoners in the US--by far the highest number of any country in the world. That so many are in jail is not because the country has a large population. (China's population is more than four times that of the US, and its prison population considerably smaller) but because the incarceration rate is so high. In 2017, the US had 568 prisoners per 100,000 residents, a far higher rate than any other country. [...] Louisiana is the capital of US incarceration, and Angola is the state's only maximum-security jail. It is the country's largest, covering an 18,000-acre site that is larger than Manhattan. At any one time around 5,200 men are imprisoned here. Pg. 77-8. Kinshasa destroys the notion that free markets naturally bounce back or have some self-righting property—a town, a city or country can get stuck in a rut and stay there. The result is a megacity with the infrastructure of a village. Home to 10 million people and located on the bank of the world's most reliable river, it lacks clean water, irrigation, and proper sewage. Pg. 174. Glasgow is an extreme economy because no other city in the twentieth century experienced a decline as severe. To see this, consider the highs and lows. In the late nineteenth century Glasgow was seen as the 'Second City of Empire', and in many ways began to outpace the UK's capital, leading London in art, design and architecture as well as engineering, innovation and trade. [...] Yet a century later, shipping was gone, unemployment rife and in Calton, a Glaswegian suburb, male life expectancy was just 54. (In Swaziland, where 27 per cent of the adult population has AIDS, it is 57). Pg. 179. The first lesson to take from Akita is that the ageing economy is a paradox—we can see it coming, yet it is still a shock. In Japan, the elderly people I spoke to described their old age as unexpected because it was something they had not seen in their families, towns and cities before. Pg. 247. Modigliani's Life-cycle hypothesis is mentioned here. Note to self: read more about this. (hide spoiler)]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    In this book the author describes visits to 9 locations around the world that fit the description in the title. His overall argument is that observing these “extreme economies” tells us about how economics works in more mainstream circumstances. The book is divided into 3 parts and in the first section “Resilience”, the author looks at economies that operate well in adverse circumstances. He opens with Aceh in Sumatra, which had to recover from the tsunami of 2004. In this chapter Davies stresses In this book the author describes visits to 9 locations around the world that fit the description in the title. His overall argument is that observing these “extreme economies” tells us about how economics works in more mainstream circumstances. The book is divided into 3 parts and in the first section “Resilience”, the author looks at economies that operate well in adverse circumstances. He opens with Aceh in Sumatra, which had to recover from the tsunami of 2004. In this chapter Davies stresses the value of “human capital”. Economies will recover from disaster as long as there are people left with the skills, knowledge and drive to rebuild. One point he makes is that places which have been completely destroyed have an opportunity to build improved infrastructure, noting the examples of Japan and West Germany post WW2. The other chapters in this section examine a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the USA. In both locations the refugees and prisoners have developed an “underground” economy despite severe restrictions against doing so. They have had to develop ingenious ways to get round those. The next section, entitled “Failure”, looks at environmental degradation in Darien in Panama, and the abject poverty of Kinshasa in DR Congo. Interestingly for me it also features the city of Glasgow in Scotland, only about 100 miles from where I live. I confess I was a little surprised at its inclusion. Whilst Glasgow has its share of problems I hadn’t really considered it comparable with somewhere like Kinshasa, but the author explains that it is an “extreme” economy because it has suffered a steeper decline than any other city. That’s fair enough, and the author’s arguments about the reason for the decline have some merit, though personally I think his description of 19th and 20th century Glasgow was a bit idealised. The section on Kinshasa was one of the most interesting. The city is a classic case of the harm caused by bad governance, specifically corruption. The DR Congo state has become a giant parasite that sucks all the wealth from the population. This isn’t just high-level corruption but extends to people like teachers and ordinary policemen. It’s hard to see how the city and the country can get out of the quagmire they are in. The last section considers future issues, and begins with the city of Akita in Japan, a country with an ageing and falling population. Japan is the trend-setter in this, but it seems that South Korea, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are not far behind. A falling population brings many economic challenges. The author moves onto to Tallinn in Estonia, a country noted for digital and technological innovation, before ending with a look at Santiago in Chile. The country has seen rapid economic growth in the last 40 years and is now the richest in South America. This has come alongside a growth in inequality that itself generates social instability. This was one of the most interesting chapters and is politically balanced, noting that rapid economic growth is closely associated with a rise in inequality, and asking how we can best arrive at a formula that works for everyone. For the author, the ageing world population, the use of technology, and economic inequality will be three of the biggest issues to be addressed over the next decade or so. I thought Extreme Economies was a well-written and well-argued text. Not all of it was totally new to me but there was still plenty of insight. Climate change campaigners will disagree with the author's choice of the 3 big issues of the next decade. They may have a point, but there’s nothing wrong with looking at 3 other important issues that have received a great deal less attention.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Ritchie

    The nine chapters of this book tell different stories of how economies develop, whether formal or informal. All of the chapters are intriguing and interesting, however some felt a little more contrived in their conclusions than others. Most of the chapters really gave me something to think about which is one of the things I always look for in a book. Overall close to 5 stars and definitely a book I'd recommend to people interested in how people interact in extreme circumstances as well as those eco The nine chapters of this book tell different stories of how economies develop, whether formal or informal. All of the chapters are intriguing and interesting, however some felt a little more contrived in their conclusions than others. Most of the chapters really gave me something to think about which is one of the things I always look for in a book. Overall close to 5 stars and definitely a book I'd recommend to people interested in how people interact in extreme circumstances as well as those economically minded.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Hay

    Excellent. Richard travels to nine very different extreme economies to learn about survival, failure and the future. A wonderful combination of immersive travel and popular economics reminiscent of Reggie Yates and Tim Harford. The book is both easily digestible and packed with historical context, travel stories, economic assessment and intuitive thinking. I particularly enjoyed the future economies at the end, none of which I had thought about in this level of detail before.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rishabh Srivastava

    This was a fascinating and largely non-partisan overview of how economies in different parts of the world work. The author visits places across the world, and tries to paints a narrative picture of how different economic models have performed in varying conditions. The interview and enquiry driven nature of the author's work means that he is able to make arguments that more data-driven economists would be unable to support, but also mean that his insights could be biased by his relatively narrow This was a fascinating and largely non-partisan overview of how economies in different parts of the world work. The author visits places across the world, and tries to paints a narrative picture of how different economic models have performed in varying conditions. The interview and enquiry driven nature of the author's work means that he is able to make arguments that more data-driven economists would be unable to support, but also mean that his insights could be biased by his relatively narrow sliver of observations. Moreover, his status as an affluent foreigner interviewing everyday local people also means that he may not have captured the true essence of a region's zeitgeist. These factors notwithstanding, this was a fascinating read. My main takeaways were: 1. Unplanned, “messy” economies often work better than centrally-planned and organised ones. This is seen in both Aceh reconstruction projects (planned cities are ghost towns while unplanned "shanty" towns have a more lively economy) and refugee camps in Jordan (planned camps are far less economically efficient than unplanned one) 2. When you restrict an economy by not allowing people to buy what they want, they often create workarounds by buying stuff they don’t want, and then bartering it for cash or stuff they really want from smugglers. Policy-makers should always keep this in mind when drafting legislation 3. The tragedy of the commons is real. Markets can lead to conclusions that are bad in the long run if left unregulated. But it’s difficult to figure out the right level of regulation. For instance, you can have a maximum logging quota by weight to prevent deforestation of rainforests. But the implication might be that choppers cut a lot of wood, but only take the best with them — leading perfectly usable wood to be wasted in the forest. Similarly, by creating incentives for reforestation but not specifying the right kind of trees, the trees planted can often do long term harm to the ecosystem 4. Very frequent taxation and regulatory capture can make business impossible — which completely messes up an economy. This is a huge reason why efficient businesses have failed to emerged in places like Kinshasa 5. Regulations becomes very harmful when their objective becomes revenue, instead of policing 6. When a city depends almost entirely on one industry — it’s vulnerable to becoming a ghost town of the industry collapses. When this happens, life expectancy falls, suicides and drug overdoses rise, and mental health problems abound. Post shipping Glasgow is an example of this 7. Extreme anti-market (planned economy) and extreme pro-market (laissez faire) policies both often lead to long-term disaster. While ignoring inequality to optimise for increasing absolute incomes at all levels is a worthwhile goal in the short-term, inequality must be tackled to maintain social cohesion in the long term

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cowmanrobert

    Excellent book with an interesting conclusion on the future of the economics of life. Reviewing different cities and population centers that have "extreme economies," such as remarkable resurgence in the aftermath of catastrophe, and the sophisticated development of informal markets in spite of heavy government controls, the author makes excellent observations about how economies work. If I may offer one criticism, I was left wondering about some seeming contradictions of observations of the sup Excellent book with an interesting conclusion on the future of the economics of life. Reviewing different cities and population centers that have "extreme economies," such as remarkable resurgence in the aftermath of catastrophe, and the sophisticated development of informal markets in spite of heavy government controls, the author makes excellent observations about how economies work. If I may offer one criticism, I was left wondering about some seeming contradictions of observations of the supposed effects of the "Chicago School"-derived policies in Chile. The economic problems seem to be a product of the described government interventions, rather than free markets that the Chicago School prescribed. Lastly, the author seems to conclude that boundless human ingenuity that is allowed to flourish works. I wish the author would have gone into detail about the seeming paradox of the possible adulteration of the academic recipe in the hands of bureaucrats.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tõnu Vahtra

    10 points for being the first popular book to mention Playtech... and other technology companies in Estonia (Click&Grow, Starship Technologies, Skype) + E-government and other innovations. I've started to give engagement scores to books and this one gets maximum points for engagement. Engagement meaning that when you start the book then it's difficult to put it down and you are looking forward to pick it up again (some other books at the same time are extremely valuable but a real pain to get th 10 points for being the first popular book to mention Playtech... and other technology companies in Estonia (Click&Grow, Starship Technologies, Skype) + E-government and other innovations. I've started to give engagement scores to books and this one gets maximum points for engagement. Engagement meaning that when you start the book then it's difficult to put it down and you are looking forward to pick it up again (some other books at the same time are extremely valuable but a real pain to get through). This book could be placed to the "1000 useless facts" category but I believe that it does actually expand one's knowledge in topics that not many books write about. Listing the topics covered to maybe spark interest: SURVIVAL: *Acheh post tsunami, Indonesia *Refugee camp at Zaatari (Syrian) *Americal prison in Lousiana FAILURE: *Darien Camp, Central America (used by Asian immigrants in route to US, this was completely unknown to me) *Kinshasa, Congo (high unemployment, high taxes and corruption, failing market and government) *Glasgow, UK (ship building hub, loss of social networks) FUTURE: *Akita, Japan (how Japan is dealing with aging society) *Tallinn, Estonia *Chile (extreme inequality, collusion along oligopolies)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Domett West

    I found this a fantastic book. The way the book was laid out made the lessons from the book easily digestible and very interesting - nine economic case studies (one chapter for each case study) comprising three economies with extreme events / challenges that have thrived, three economies with extreme events / challenges that have/are failing and there economies with extreme challenges that give us insight into what we will be facing in the future. The narration in the book was clear, colourful a I found this a fantastic book. The way the book was laid out made the lessons from the book easily digestible and very interesting - nine economic case studies (one chapter for each case study) comprising three economies with extreme events / challenges that have thrived, three economies with extreme events / challenges that have/are failing and there economies with extreme challenges that give us insight into what we will be facing in the future. The narration in the book was clear, colourful and easy to understand. A great book for anyone wanting to learn more about the economy and how it is affected by different policies, cultures etc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Luke Durbin

    I thoroughly enjoyed Extreme Economies. It wasn't quite what I expected, but then I didn't exactly know what to expect. Richard Davies takes the reader around the world exploring and understanding various economies that don't function like the rest of society. I particularly enjoyed the first section on informal economies that spawn out of necessity but the remaining two, one being dysfunctional economies and the other being economies representing the future to be quite insightful as well. An ea I thoroughly enjoyed Extreme Economies. It wasn't quite what I expected, but then I didn't exactly know what to expect. Richard Davies takes the reader around the world exploring and understanding various economies that don't function like the rest of society. I particularly enjoyed the first section on informal economies that spawn out of necessity but the remaining two, one being dysfunctional economies and the other being economies representing the future to be quite insightful as well. An easy listen/read and one that focused on narrative over economic theory. I recommend the book to anyone that enjoys learning about people, money, and hearing stories about other cultures.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Written in a rather hyperbolic tone (what else, for a book which has extreme in the title?), much of this book was informative, but some of it was completely overblown. Where the author's writing touched on my professional experience, I found it came up short, which made me suspicious about the rest of the book. Written in a rather hyperbolic tone (what else, for a book which has extreme in the title?), much of this book was informative, but some of it was completely overblown. Where the author's writing touched on my professional experience, I found it came up short, which made me suspicious about the rest of the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    PuriP

    Great analysis of the external forces that drive local economies and the adaptability of mankind. The book is not at all comprehensive or especially homogeneous, but it makes some interesting points.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Igor Zurimendi

    Reads like quality journalism, but packed with serious economics. Fantastic.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I'm not sure that I am convinced by Davies's thesis that studying extreme economies is useful for understanding and developing policies for the rest of the world. Davies doesn't go into enough detail to seriously argue this. However, I really enjoyed this book as a hybrid between economics and travel. Much like visiting a market in a foreign country can teach you a lot about the local culture, by looking through the economic lens, Davies reveals some fascinating details that are not apparent to I'm not sure that I am convinced by Davies's thesis that studying extreme economies is useful for understanding and developing policies for the rest of the world. Davies doesn't go into enough detail to seriously argue this. However, I really enjoyed this book as a hybrid between economics and travel. Much like visiting a market in a foreign country can teach you a lot about the local culture, by looking through the economic lens, Davies reveals some fascinating details that are not apparent to the unaided eye. It is certainly a unique twist on the travelogue. The last chapters, on aging in Japan, technology in Estonia, and inequality in Chile, are the weakest. (The first two are too generic and familiar, while good argument about education in Chile is not laid out with sufficient detail to be convincing.) But I did like the summary at the end. The book is probably also a decent introduction to economics, as Davies goes out of his way to highlight and explain many of the basic concepts. > Tax is collected at least once a day in Kinshasa, and many areas have both a morning and an afternoon tax. The rate is high – officially 54 per cent of profits – but what really hurts are all the extra undocumented payments. A restaurateur who runs a cafe and supermarket explains: "Every day I pay tax, and I must pay a bribe in exchange for a receipt for the tax I have just paid, and then I am forced to offer a 'bon prix' on the tax official’s lunch." > People hold both dollars and francs in their wallets: the dollar to store value over time, and francs for small daily transactions. When shoppers go to the market or a restaurant, for example, they first stop to buy some francs from the exchange trader who will be sitting outside. > Kinshasa destroys the notion that free markets naturally bounce back or have some self-righting property – a town, city or country can get stuck in a rut and stay there. The result is a megacity with the infrastructure of a village. Home to 10 million people and located on the bank of the world’s most reliable river, it lacks clean water, irrigation and proper sewerage > Glasgow is an extreme economy because no other city in the twentieth century experienced a decline as severe. To see this, consider the highs and lows. In the late nineteenth century Glasgow was seen as the "Second City of Empire", and in many ways began to outpace the UK’s capital, leading London in art, design and architecture as well as engineering, innovation and trade. Some even referred to it as a "modern Rome". Yet a century later, shipping was gone, unemployment rife and in Calton, a Glaswegian suburb, male life expectancy was just 54.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Davies does not dream of economic theories in an ivory tower; he actually visited places with extreme economies to learn about economics and markets. Survival: 1. Aceh post tsunami. They lost everything, but thanks to the customs of husbands buying gold Jewelry for their wives when they marry, they were able to rebuild everything. Other good things that came out was the ceasefire between Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government, and the new more open society. 2. Refugee camp at Zaatari. Refugees Davies does not dream of economic theories in an ivory tower; he actually visited places with extreme economies to learn about economics and markets. Survival: 1. Aceh post tsunami. They lost everything, but thanks to the customs of husbands buying gold Jewelry for their wives when they marry, they were able to rebuild everything. Other good things that came out was the ceasefire between Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government, and the new more open society. 2. Refugee camp at Zaatari. Refugees are paid in points to buy essentials. Thanks to travelling merchants, they are able to exchange stuff they don’t want with cash. So a bustling economy is formed. 3. American prison in Louisiana. Prisoners use all kinds of informal currency such as cigarettes and drugs to get stuff that is not provided, such as a warm blanket. Failure: 1. Darien Gap, Central America. Extremely dangerous because of migrants, drug dealers in the wilderness. So the market fails. 2. Kinshasa, Congo. Very high unemployment rate, very high taxes and rampant corruption. So the market fails. 3. Glasgow, UK. Used to be a ship building hub, it could not compete with Japanese ship Builders. So loss of externalities of reinforcing networks. So market fails. Future: 1. Akita, Japan: Aging society, empty houses, decreasing demand and labor every year. Schools close and young people leave. The elderly are shocked to live so long. 2. Talinn, Estonia. Baltic tiger because of tech boom, first to give E-citizenships. 3. Chile. Richest country of South America but extreme inequality thanks to the Chicago school boys. Everything is expensive because of collusion among oligopolies. As Davies pointed out markets can succeed or fail. To think markets can solve everything is naive. On the other hand, too much control as in prison or refugee camps causes market failure. So clearly a strong government enforcing the rule of law and a level playing field and promoting competition is needed to ensure maker success. The future trends towards an aging high tech and unequal society. That is what we must be prepared with. This is one of the best economic books I have ever read!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Himanshu Modi

    Most lessons learnt in economics seem rather ethereal when it comes to applying them. Economic theory is one thing. But the human mind sometimes finds it hard to grapple the full range of consequences of any economic intervention. History is littered with well intentioned incentives and deterrents gone so completely awry, that it would be funny if the outcomes were not so horrifying. Besides, even if we were to honestly try to balance long term health with quick fix solutions for immediate probl Most lessons learnt in economics seem rather ethereal when it comes to applying them. Economic theory is one thing. But the human mind sometimes finds it hard to grapple the full range of consequences of any economic intervention. History is littered with well intentioned incentives and deterrents gone so completely awry, that it would be funny if the outcomes were not so horrifying. Besides, even if we were to honestly try to balance long term health with quick fix solutions for immediate problems, there is a limit to our foresight. A economic hero of 90s american financial system, whose actions are now seen as the early cause of the 2008 crisis? I am sure there must have been commentators who would have said back, you keep watching - this is going to lead us into a big hole. But then, that's true for every single issue in the world. How do you separate out voices of reason from alarmist doomsayers? So economists do what they do best. Take decisions, and "see how things play out". Really, in the end, economics is nothing but a series of "what-if" experiments Which is brings us to Extreme Economies. Here, Richard Davies basically goes to places to do just that - see how things have played out in some of the most extreme situations. The book is a worthy read simply for the range of economic "use-cases" it covers. Some extremes are more extreme than others - like the currency system in a prison. It's incredible how economics really is a fundamental part of genetic behaviour - and it doesn't get enough credit for us evolving into what we are. Yuval Noah Harari glamourized gossip in the role it played in our evolution. Our natural outlook to barter and maximize utility with a forward looking view is just as central. Prisoners invent value out of literally nothing. That is rather incredible. As is the story of indonesian beach dwellers who revived themselves after the great tsunami. I honestly worry day and night about my financial security. It feels so petty after reading about what people overcome. The UK example reads more like an erosion through time than anything else, but it's relevant nonetheless... especially in understanding how economies shapes communities. Plus the history of Glasgow is really fascinating. The other stories of lost potential feel like zooming in on lost archives of the colonial mess the European conquests left us with - It reads like places of toxic wastelands or perilous troll infested forests that brave fellowships trudge through to fulfill their quests. The economics of tomorrow is what is really the most relevant portion of the book really. Davies makes a very pertinent point - that the whole tomorrow that economics tries to improve through policies and interest rates and all of that... where economists tend to play the safe hand of this is the best bet, but you never know what future brings... well, some of those places exist today. Akita talks about the problem of a society with an ageing population. My God that portion was grim. It's a portion which deserves a whole book really. The efficiencies of Tallinn were intoxicating, and it's hard to understand why is that situation so futuristic? You talk about economies of scale and all... but Estonia with it's 1.5 mn population seems to be running things really well. There is some context of automation and technology cannibalizing some jobs, but I suppose the role of AI there is a bit beyond the scope of this book. Lastly, Santiago is supposed to be "tomorrow" in terms of inequality - but I think inequality is extreme and pervasive everywhere. It is the today of a capitalistic society. Economics love saying market economics increases the pie, but even then, where strong institutions aren't present, it quite simply increases inequality. And if the goal of the richest people is to keep poorest at the bare minimum levels where they will not revolt... they are doing a good job so far. So, these explorations are mostly anecdotal. You can read them as separate essays. There is not convuluted economics itself that is discussed here. Perhaps readers who have delved deeper in economics will want a deeper perspective. For the somewhat initiated though, these explorations might be the beginning of a deep, deep rabbit hole.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Disclaimer: These are my personal notes. There are spoilers. I do not claim 100% accuracy. The review is average at best. Order: Review first. Notes after. Review & Summary: The concept is novel. Davies visits 9 economies witnessing different economic conditions. Akin to 9 patients with unique health concerns. For some readers, the stories might not be new. The reporting is, at times, surface only and maintains distance from the psychological & societal dimensions of life in these 9 economic condi Disclaimer: These are my personal notes. There are spoilers. I do not claim 100% accuracy. The review is average at best. Order: Review first. Notes after. Review & Summary: The concept is novel. Davies visits 9 economies witnessing different economic conditions. Akin to 9 patients with unique health concerns. For some readers, the stories might not be new. The reporting is, at times, surface only and maintains distance from the psychological & societal dimensions of life in these 9 economic conditions (except for the chapter on Japan). I wouldn't recommend this book as a travelogue. If you are new to economics, this is a good book to read to understand economic jargon. But Davies places too much trust in economic theory - they are framed almost like fundamental physics theories as if these economic ideas predicted & fully explain the modern world. Notes: A) Economies devastated yet thriving: Tsunami Aceh: reliance & faith in traditional saving (gold) jumpstarted the economy (gold buyers/lenders) when all formal banks washed away. The human ability to continue living.  Lesson: formal economies cannot always be relied on. Jordan Syrian refugee camp: enterprising young smugglers. Taking advantage of supposed cashless system to exchange supermarket items for rials. Independent one-family businesses informally employing 60%.  Commerce & trade thrives.  Camp 2: opposite. Rigid rules & enforcement suffocating business. No communal market stifling human relationships.  Purpose-built shop stalls almost empty.  Lesson: allow economies free rein. Louisianna prison: prison economy.  B) Dying yet should be thriving: Glasgow: shipbuilding community living in shared housing tenements built long ago. Unable to re-structure competitively to compete against diesel powered ships. Post WW2, Japan overtakes yearly ships built -brand new ship building yards. Govt subsidies & bailouts keep afloat until early 1980s when finally shut down. Societal depression: unemployment, drugs, suicide. Shared housing system knocked down for housing blocks strips away social bonds keeping people together. Darien Gap: central Panama. Rich in biodiversity & natural timber. Lack of employment forces locals to chop down natural wealth.  Poorly priced timber doesn't capture externalities. *Darien adventures Scotland: follow English in trade colonies, believed in big profits, 50% Scotland capital financed a fleet of boats. Failure -most died tropical diseases, remaining sailed to jamaica or sold themselves as slaves.  Scotland bankrupt, turned to England which = UK.  Kinshaha:  local traders pay multiple taxes daily stripping away profits. Inability, or unwillingness, govt officials to direct natural resources for national growth. The people rely only on themselves. C) Economies already dealing with tomorrow's issues: Santiago Chile:  Education. UChicago educated idealists (Chicago Boys) implements free market reforms during Pinochet era.  Education system now one of the most unequal.  **Metro stops & education achievement perfect correlation (further away centre the less educated).  Public schools are free with token charges ( textbooks etc) that can be expensive. Proliferation of unregulated tertiary education schools -promise life altering benefits but certificates useless.  ***Liberalised unregulated markets has failed the people in delivering quality education at affordable prices.  Japan:  Ageing population. In Akita, almost all residents are over 65. Many living past 100yrs. Loneliness & poverty =suicide.  Elderly utterly unprepared for the costs of a long life, many living in poverty - they are the first generation to face this problem. Over 50% Japan budget for elderly/pensioners.  Despite strong cultural reverence for elderly, more younger people now critical & name calling increasing.  Elderly remain active (cheerleaders, dancers, theatre group).  Tallin, Estonia:  Digital capital. All govt paperwork now paperless. *Creativity: inventions & own businesses (tv show inventions).  Helping to answer global issues with science & technology.  Independent business & creativity highly valued.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fredrik Lindholm

    Refreshingly simple in structure. Nine places, all of which are extreme in some sense economically, were studied by Davies, who travelled there and interviewed people. The idea for the book is that the extreme situations have something to tell about the economy, which cannot be observed in the normal state. The book is seemingly without an ideological agenda and just seems to want to describe what everyone of these economies illustrates. The examples are: Aceh in Indonesia, the Tsunami of 2004 o Refreshingly simple in structure. Nine places, all of which are extreme in some sense economically, were studied by Davies, who travelled there and interviewed people. The idea for the book is that the extreme situations have something to tell about the economy, which cannot be observed in the normal state. The book is seemingly without an ideological agenda and just seems to want to describe what everyone of these economies illustrates. The examples are: Aceh in Indonesia, the Tsunami of 2004 overruns the shore, and tears up all of a town, killing half the population. The great destruction of capital (everything is gone) matters little. The rebuilding sees an economic boom of great proportions. Interestingly, Jackie Chan town, built by the Chinese in the mountains (safer than the coast), is very unsuccessful, despite better buildings quality. The human capital dictates where activity is. Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Because of a rapid inflow of refugees, the UN loses control, and is forced to rely on refugees. In Zaatari, close to the border of Jordan and Syria, people manage to break lose from the control economy the UN tries to enforce. They get a pre-paid card which is charged with credit in 5 categories every month, trying to control their spending. They do not want milk powder an mattresses though, they want cigarettes and fashion. They buy stuff in the UN store, and sell it to kids, who smuggle it away. This gives them cash. The economy is vital, 66% are employed, there is a Champs Elysees on the camp. Futher inland lies Azraq (blue). Here, everything is higher quality, well organised white buildings in perfect patterns, UN has complete control, no smuggling. Leads to only 8% employment, extreme depressions, violence danger. People have no purpose in life, no ability to realise themselves. "Angola" prison in Lousiana. Used to be a plantation where slaves planted cotton. Now the majority black prison population is forced to work, planting cotton. They own 4 cents an hour - a rate not raised since 1970. However, can rise to 20 cents if good behavior for 10 years. Risk losing it all if get into one argument. Prison store prices are high though, like a few dollars for a snack, a deodorant etc. There is a prison economy. Cash is banned, so are easy to use currency objects like stamps which could easily be used. Pre-paid dots are used. Darien Gap, a crazy colonial adventure where Scotland wanted to capture the strategic area between the two Americas. After gathering almost 25% of all capital in Scotland, 2,500 men were sent in a few ships, all equipped with prime Scottish trade goods such as combs and whigs. Nobody wanted them in the Americas, the colony could not supply itself, starved, was attacked by the Spanish. Today it is an economic failure. Security does not exist, infrastructure is bad, and logging destroys nature, with protective laws making it worse. Because of extraction limits in weight, most of trees are thrown away, and only the most valuable parts kept. Davies was in Yaviza, the old capital, and where plantains come from. They are sold at ridiculously low prices (4 cents a fruit), and 10s of middle men take their part on way out. Same with wood - very little value added happens here. Kinshasa - problem of too much taxation by everyone Glasgow, social capital Akita, aging. Tallinn, technology Santiago, inequality

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    This book has its roots in racist travel guides written by privileged white people who go to "exotic" places and thrill readers at home with their edgy encounters with "natives," dangerous animals, or the extremes of weather. While Davies tries to appear progressive by giving passing lip service to the role the US and CIA played in the overthrow of Lumumba (Congo, 1961) and Allende (Chile, 1973), his big message is simplistic and reactionary: Watch out! This could happen to YOU (comfortable, mid This book has its roots in racist travel guides written by privileged white people who go to "exotic" places and thrill readers at home with their edgy encounters with "natives," dangerous animals, or the extremes of weather. While Davies tries to appear progressive by giving passing lip service to the role the US and CIA played in the overthrow of Lumumba (Congo, 1961) and Allende (Chile, 1973), his big message is simplistic and reactionary: Watch out! This could happen to YOU (comfortable, middle class US Americans and Europeans). So let's see what we can learn from the poor but heroic people living on garbage dumps and in prison. Needless to say, Davies is short on analysis when it comes to the role of racist capitalism in destroying the economies of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Yes, you'll hear the word "colonialism" but there's no story of the systemic, ongoing rape and pillage of all his locales by US and European neocolonialism. Davies goes to the Democratic Republic of Congo and talks about King Leopold and his murderous quest for rubber. But he leaves out WHY the people are poor today--foreign corporations are making billions off the coltan that goes into computers and cell phones, coltan mined by starved workers caught and killed (millions have died) in proxy wars. Instead, you are left with the racist stereotype of African nations that are too ignorant and corrupt to run their own countries after their white masters leave. Davies even goes to Angola prison in Alabama without talk about institutional racism being the cause of the mass incarceration of Black people. No mention of the Black Panthers who spent decades in solitary confinement in Angola. Instead, he shows how prisoners are hustling (just like the other poor people he's interviewed)--why, look at how creative poor people can be in their own limited "free markets." His big simplistic take away is, you need the free market,, but not TOO much. You need some social controls, but not TOO much. Freedom of the market place, even if you're living on top of a garbage dump, fills a "basic human need" for creativity and self-expression. This is really patronizing. Of course people are creative. Of course they will find legal and illegal ways to work the system to survive. But the vignettes he presents are not "extremes." They are the norm. Davies ignores the fact that half the world is living in poverty. 900 million people in India live on 50 cents a day. Nations run by corporations and the 1% wage wars to protect profits, wasting millions of lives and trillions of dollars. . Davies knows that the "s--t is about to hit the fan," and that the masses will come to the conclusion that capitalism, despite its army of economists like him, is a total failure except for the privileged few. Its insatiable, legally mandated drive to maximize profits has destroyed the world and billions of lives. In fact, capitalism NEEDS poor people. They compete for jobs and are laid off to meet the needs of the corporation. "Moderation" is not the cure--as Davies knows full well, the Golden Rule is "Those who own the gold make the rules."

  21. 4 out of 5

    X Li

    As a writer Richard Davies is quite good - the anecdotes are interesting and the prose smart but relatively undemanding aka the type of book which people who are curious but don't necessarily have a need for philosophical frameworks can easily pick up and put down. Each chapter is mostly self contained, though Davies does try to connect them by drawing parallels between chapters. However, Extreme Economies is one of those books where the sum of interesting stories, drawing on some really rich sou As a writer Richard Davies is quite good - the anecdotes are interesting and the prose smart but relatively undemanding aka the type of book which people who are curious but don't necessarily have a need for philosophical frameworks can easily pick up and put down. Each chapter is mostly self contained, though Davies does try to connect them by drawing parallels between chapters. However, Extreme Economies is one of those books where the sum of interesting stories, drawing on some really rich source material (from over 100,000 miles of travel and 500+ interviews), somehow doesn't quite add up to a holistic story without more explanation. If I could perform surgery on his work, to get at some overarching lessons/themes with somewhat open-ended conclusions for readers to ponder, I would structure the book in the following order as well as add some more details/framing to make his points about these "extreme economies" seem less fringe: "Sheets of Loose Sand": Aceh, Indonesia (Resilience); Darien, Panama (Failure) - The ideas of Samuel Huntington are pertinent as we think about two lands that exist at the intersection of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea and the isthmus between North and South America (and the shortest route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans), respectively. Pyramids of Need: Zaatari, Jordan (Resilience); Santiago, Chile (Future) - Ubers and bicycles figure prominently alongside grocery stores and schools in settings as different as refugee camps and the equivalent of favelas. In addition to Milton Friedman, the thinking of Hernando de Soto (the modern day economist) would apply. Can you build a wall for this?: Louisiana, USA (Resilience); Glasgow, UK (Failure); Tallinn, Estonia (Future) - Prisons, public housing estates, and technology enabled social security... think the themes will appear clear. Sharing is Caring: Kinshasa, DRC (Failure); Akita, Japan (Future) - The most complete chapters with nuance, not all pleasant, that gets you thinking. The Kinshasa chapter offers fascinating insights for those interested in unvarnished details about how the poverty traps work in reality - hint, it has nothing to do with lack of self-reliance. And Akita, for what the demographic dividend look like in rural Japan. Overall a quick and enjoyable read which in serious discussion, and with the appropriate framing, could be even more textured.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Clay

    The world is heading towards ai and other technologies that could upend much of the way we live. Climate change will upend things from another direction. How to cope? Davies argues that looking at extreme settings today can give pointers for tomorrow, and that up close and personal looks at economics are more meaningful than econometric studies from the serious people echo chamber. Akita Japan, for example, already has more people over 50 than under 50, and points out coping strategies and risks The world is heading towards ai and other technologies that could upend much of the way we live. Climate change will upend things from another direction. How to cope? Davies argues that looking at extreme settings today can give pointers for tomorrow, and that up close and personal looks at economics are more meaningful than econometric studies from the serious people echo chamber. Akita Japan, for example, already has more people over 50 than under 50, and points out coping strategies and risks. Social capital is key, and robots will also help going forward. Santiago is a IMF/World Bank poster child of success, yet inequality is highest of all OECD. Can it be toned down without sacrificing the benefits of rapid growth? Aceh was destroyed yet rebuilt better and stronger by the survivors. Every building in one town was destroyed and washed away except the mosque, but survivor's human capital survived. Aid advisors told them not to rebuild on the coast, but they did anyway, while picking up burner phones following the lead of the aid workers, and these helped to jumpstart their businesses. Kinshasa was devastated by poor governance, but informal markets help people cope. Estonia has gone all out with state supported technology industry: built the economy while helping to integrate worse off Russian speakers with Estonians. Many other intriguing cases, including "Angola" prison in Louisiana, where prisoners use the scratch off code numbers on money cards for cash. One example that could have been discussed is Afghanistan, a case of doing things the government and partners do not fully understand, with many aspects of complexity including contextual unknowns such as the nature of the possible settlement with the Taliban, different interests and goals, and multiple transactions that enhance risk. Afghanistan could be called an "extreme economy".  Currently, the Taliban's presumed goal of setting up a strict Islamic state would seem to jeopardize the cosmopolitan orientation of reforms such as those supported by partners such as the World Bank. The outcome of the future settlement will be determined by the balance of forces in the country, along with the influence of international players. While the USA is likely to pull back, Pakistan, China, India, and Iran will continue to stay engaged. It would be important to look at the country 3-5 years from now to see how donor supported reforms have stood up to the turbulence of a new political settlement. As climate change gains momentum and turbulence picks up,  many other countries may soon face a similarly unpredictable mixture of stresses and opportunities. Afghanistan may emerge as a model for providing useful support in these emerging, extreme economies of the future.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mbogo J

    It's a thing of beauty to watch the architect of an iconic building explain how they came up with the design. When they strip out the architectural plan to its bare minimum, just a few lines to illustrate the design. I remember watching the architect of Burj Al Arab, Tom Wright, do this, explaining the sail inspiration behind the tower and I was deeply fascinated. When I read the book description of Extreme Economies, this is what came into my mind's eye. What if we strip the economy to its bare It's a thing of beauty to watch the architect of an iconic building explain how they came up with the design. When they strip out the architectural plan to its bare minimum, just a few lines to illustrate the design. I remember watching the architect of Burj Al Arab, Tom Wright, do this, explaining the sail inspiration behind the tower and I was deeply fascinated. When I read the book description of Extreme Economies, this is what came into my mind's eye. What if we strip the economy to its bare minimum, take out the support structures, the contractors, the interior designers, the engineers what will we be left with? The book did not pan out according to my expectations but I liked the end result anyway. Richard Davies explored the frontier markets, not the financial market definition of frontier but rather the explorer's definition. These are markets at the very edges of the global supply chains with unique local conditions that they create their own local ecosystems. I could say this and that about the global economy but let me say I enjoyed the stories immensely. I read a chapter a day and it felt like an adventure, today we are in Talinn, tomorrow at Banda Aceh. Davies did a people's research on the matter which interests me more compared to dry tables with this marginal contribution and that GDP based on purchasing power parity. I don't mind the tables and charts it's just that they are not as exciting as reading about a coffee shop owner's experiences before, during and after the Tsunami or a smuggler's calculus through the Darien jungle. These are good stories told by a reliable, rigorous and most importantly interesting narrator. Stories are humanity's greatest legacy, they open our eyes to new experiences, co-opt the imagination in seeing new vistas and most importantly can be told to anyone not just to a select group who can rattle off abstracts such as PPP, current account deficits and balance of payment health. The book is an awesome read and an all person read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Fredrickson

    This well-written book is composed of numerous 'stories', each of which focuses on one geographical area's response to economic challenges. There are three major sections: Survival, Failure, and Future. Each section has three stories associated with it. The end of the book summarizes some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the various situations that are depicted. The challenges described in the Survival and Failure sections are very diverse situations, describing things like tsunami reco This well-written book is composed of numerous 'stories', each of which focuses on one geographical area's response to economic challenges. There are three major sections: Survival, Failure, and Future. Each section has three stories associated with it. The end of the book summarizes some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the various situations that are depicted. The challenges described in the Survival and Failure sections are very diverse situations, describing things like tsunami recovery driven by the people affected, prison economies, failures of control of externalities ( the 'commons' problem), and others. These stories are vignettes that do not really flow or relate to each other, though some cross-referencing is done. Where the book really shines is in the Future and Conclusion sections. In these stories, the author looks at the problems associated with the demographic aging of society, as well as the issues we will face as more people get displaced by technological advances in AI and robotics. This is thought-provoking stuff. Potential shortcomings of planned economies are considered here in the story of Santiago/Chile, which the 'Chicago boys' rescued from the disastrous policies of Allende and Pinochet, but whose success is tainted by extremes of inequality. While the book reads a little slow in some sections, it is worth the effort. The stories show that the extremes of governmental control of economies and free-market capitalism each have concomitant risks and problems associated with them. Finding the balance between these that allow for controls against collusion and controls of externalities like the pollution or ravaging of resources, while allowing for creativity and industriousness is clearly a tricky business. The book does not really posit solutions in its concluding section, so much as shine some light on some of the issues involved in over-control and under-control, and to point to future challenges that we need to consider.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Economics books are frequently dry. This one is not. Richard Davies, the former economics editor of The Economist, surveys 9 economies that have or are experiencing extreme stressors to see what we can learn about markets. The case studies are fascinating, both in general and in the details (want to learn about prison currencies or how refugees subvert cashless economies?) Davies believes in the concept of markets in general--and he takes obvious delight in the way refugees and prisoners thwart Economics books are frequently dry. This one is not. Richard Davies, the former economics editor of The Economist, surveys 9 economies that have or are experiencing extreme stressors to see what we can learn about markets. The case studies are fascinating, both in general and in the details (want to learn about prison currencies or how refugees subvert cashless economies?) Davies believes in the concept of markets in general--and he takes obvious delight in the way refugees and prisoners thwart attempts to stop markets for necessities--but he is not doctrinaire. Markets can fail, and less regulation is not more. The running theme is that while governments can misregulate the market, government also has the power to develop and support it. In Kinshasa, the market fails because the state is corrupt and lacks trust, leading to a cycle of corruption and weakness. In Glasgow, social capital was destroyed, leading to worse outcomes for its people than in other de-industrializing cities. In Santiago, meanwhile, slavish devotion to Chicago economics has lowered absolute poverty, but has caused skyrocketing inequality, and its voucherized education system is a shambles. (It's worth noting that since the book was completed, major protests have rocked Santiago, and economic reforms have been promised.) The book definitely reads like an Economist writer wrote it, but is none the worse for it. If I were to offer any criticisms, it's that he ignores an element in Japan's aging: the birth rate has plummeted, in part because of ingrained sexism and poor support for families. Japanese women have responded to this incentive by not having children. Also, while he tempers his enthusiasm for technology in the section on Tallinn, he still comes off as a bit of a booster who's a little too quick to wave off job losses or the potential for misuse of technology. If I could give this 4.5 I would, but it was too enjoyable to round down.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    This is a brilliant book for its simplicity. The concept is beautifully simple. Davies follows the lead of medicine and some other sciences in looking at some of the most extreme cases, the outlier cases. Much can be learned in such cases because the examiner can isolate certain variables. The structure of the book is equally beautifully simple, as he writes about three ‘economies’ that have extreme stress – a Syrian refugee camp, the largest US prison, and an area that suffered the most physica This is a brilliant book for its simplicity. The concept is beautifully simple. Davies follows the lead of medicine and some other sciences in looking at some of the most extreme cases, the outlier cases. Much can be learned in such cases because the examiner can isolate certain variables. The structure of the book is equally beautifully simple, as he writes about three ‘economies’ that have extreme stress – a Syrian refugee camp, the largest US prison, and an area that suffered the most physical loss in the 2004 tsunami – then at economies that are examples of huge economic failures, and finally at three examples that might give clues about the future of technology, inequality and an aging demographic. The research effort put forth by Davies is remarkable in its breadth, and in its personal touch. It’s the mind of an economist with the reporting skills of a seasoned journalist, making the writing simultaneously interpersonal and logical. The book is a study of resilience. The outcome of the study of extremes is that human and social capital are what most lead to economic resilience and strength. Even in situations of extreme oppression, markets can pop up to fulfill both material demand, but also provide the people involved self-worth and dignity. However, there are also tragic cases like the Darien Gap, where markets have never formed due to the total absence of any meaningful interpersonal trust. Here also is an example of extremely harmful consequences from well-intended regulation. I would recommend this book to all, but especially to those that don’t consider the human side of markets and how they enable dignity and meaning, or to people that worry about the resiliency or sustainability of society (for example extreme job loss). These are all data not captured in traditional economic measures like GDP. Personally, I found Davies to be very balanced, being careful not to imply that markets are the solution to all our problems.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    If nothing else this was an interesting look at some out of the way places in the world that gives unique insight into local economies and conditions on the ground. The author visits 9 out of the way locales, breaking up the book into places of ‘resilience’ (for instance, comparing 2 Syrian refugee communities in Jordan), places of ‘lost potential’ (such as Kinshasa in the DRC), and places of ‘tomorrow’ (e.g., Tallinn). Overall the theme of ‘Extreme’ economies worked well, although one could arg If nothing else this was an interesting look at some out of the way places in the world that gives unique insight into local economies and conditions on the ground. The author visits 9 out of the way locales, breaking up the book into places of ‘resilience’ (for instance, comparing 2 Syrian refugee communities in Jordan), places of ‘lost potential’ (such as Kinshasa in the DRC), and places of ‘tomorrow’ (e.g., Tallinn). Overall the theme of ‘Extreme’ economies worked well, although one could argue that once you’re outside of OECD countries things get ‘extreme’ pretty quickly. Breaking up into the three blocks works a bit less well, for instance it seems in the last section that there’s quite a variation between the Tallinn and Santiago examples, with the former being a story of a city riding high on a technical-adaptation wave while the latter was a former high flyer bogged down with a dose of resource curse and exacerbated inequality after years of Friedman inspired policies. Also the section grouping Glasgow and Darian seems a stretch. In spite of this each locale was given a good level of detail and was well beyond just a Wikipedia reference. Also appreciated was that the author did appear to be unbiased in spite of having clear preferences on the Syrian camps, and in the final chapter giving a balanced view on Chicago school influences (warts & all) on the Chilean economy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paterson Loarn

    I chose to read Extreme Economies because I hope to understand the economic factors affecting global warming, and the whole-world environment. Richard Davies introduces the reader to several locations where unofficial economies have grown up in the wake of a natural disaster or financial collapse. Some of these work brilliantly well; others are dismal failures. His book is engagingly written and accessible. I enjoyed it in exactly the same way I would enjoy an investigative newspaper article or I chose to read Extreme Economies because I hope to understand the economic factors affecting global warming, and the whole-world environment. Richard Davies introduces the reader to several locations where unofficial economies have grown up in the wake of a natural disaster or financial collapse. Some of these work brilliantly well; others are dismal failures. His book is engagingly written and accessible. I enjoyed it in exactly the same way I would enjoy an investigative newspaper article or an exciting novel. I'm not qualified to comment on it as piece of research, but to me, all the references in the back looked valid. In fact, Davies may be missing out on 5 star reviews because digital readers don't follow the diligent references to the end. If you read the book digitally, make sure you swipe right through and give him some stars. The following quotation introduces Davies' premise. 'To remain resilient, as the first part of the book shows, a society often creates its own informal markets. Despite all the odds, trade and exchange sprang up quickly in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, in the Zaatari refugee camp and even in Louisiana’s highest-security penitentiaries.' I was astonished to find that Davies includes Glasgow as one of the failed informal markets. The historical background to this is explained in a synpathetic way, including interviews with residents. I recommend 'Extreme Economies' to anyone who is curious to find out how ordinary people survive when smitten by extraordinary circumstances.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tarun

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well this book discuss about three kind of economies :- 1. Survival 2. Failure 3. Future Survival which is the economics of resilience shows how informal trade can flourish the economy. It also shows how there is an opportunity in an adversity. There are three countries which have been discussed here - Aceh , Zaatari & Louisiana. Aceh was devastated by Tsunami, Zaatari is a Syrian refugee camp & Louisiana is a prison in USA.Aforementioned cities depicts a true testimonial of a recoup. Darien , Ki Well this book discuss about three kind of economies :- 1. Survival 2. Failure 3. Future Survival which is the economics of resilience shows how informal trade can flourish the economy. It also shows how there is an opportunity in an adversity. There are three countries which have been discussed here - Aceh , Zaatari & Louisiana. Aceh was devastated by Tsunami, Zaatari is a Syrian refugee camp & Louisiana is a prison in USA.Aforementioned cities depicts a true testimonial of a recoup. Darien , Kinhasa and Glasgow are failure economies. In these chapters one understands what exactly went wrong there and things which should not be done in the future to make sure these kinds of failures are not repeated. The last leg of this book focus on the future , it depicts how cities like Akita , Tallinn & Santiago are future economies of the world. Akita is facing an elderly population where it getting arduous for Japanese government to give them pensions. Tallinn is a tech savvy city where there are high chances that human jobs will be replaced by AI & ML.Santiago is an example of disparity where bottom of the pyramid is struggling because of the prior reason. Would highly recommend this book to all the people who have interest in real issues which are impacting economies of the world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ajay

    In my opinion, a course on economics would be mandatory at every high school and college, since it impacts all of us and plays such an integral part of our lives. Furthermore, this book would be part of the curriculum, since it does a great job of explaining economics without the confusing mathematic formulas. An economy plays a massive role in each society and is something that needs to be constantly nourished, managed, and observed. An economy is easy to take for granted and is fragile. This b In my opinion, a course on economics would be mandatory at every high school and college, since it impacts all of us and plays such an integral part of our lives. Furthermore, this book would be part of the curriculum, since it does a great job of explaining economics without the confusing mathematic formulas. An economy plays a massive role in each society and is something that needs to be constantly nourished, managed, and observed. An economy is easy to take for granted and is fragile. This book is a great breakdown of economics in extreme cases; survival, failure, and future. There are three chapters dedicated for each scenario. The author does a fantastic job of showing how economics is more than production and a summation of physical assets. Economics is also human capital and social capital, and is a strong reflection of a community's morale and resilience. The author also explains how all parts of society play an important role in economics; including politics, education, social support systems, physical and mental health, climate change, technology, physical barriers, etc. The explanations in this book are logical, well researched, and have good foresight. I would highly recommend this book to all readers.

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