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Road to Riches

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Road to Riches.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Peter Jay(Author)

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Road to Riches is the story of the rise and fall of whole economies and nations, and the ascent of man as the only economic animal - as producer, consumer and accumulator of wealth. Ideas about the story of the wealth of man are constantly changing. Peter Jay explains how the economic machine works and how far beyond our control it really is. Peter Jay has spent his working life in both Britain and America, following and explaining the day-to-day twists and turns of fortune throughout the world. As he searches for deeper explanations of the forces that disturb our complacency and change our lives, he has felt the need to reach further back into history to find more enduring truths about complexities of economic patterns.

Peter Jay has been the BBC's Economics editor since 1990. Educated Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford (1st class honours in PPE) he was also President of the Oxford Union. He spent six years in the Treasury before joining The Times in 1967 as Economics Editor. One of the founders of TV-am, he also presented LWT Weekend World for five years. Between 1977-79 he was British Ambassador in Washington.

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Book details

  • PDF | 464 pages
  • Peter Jay(Author)
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (August 2, 2001)
  • English
  • 2
  • Business & Money

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Review Text

  • By DAVID BRYSON on August 2, 2007

    Peter Jay summarises the aim of this book modestly, and rather disingenuously, at the start of his last chapter as 'written by a layman for laymen'. In fact he is a professional economist of high repute and academic attainment who has earned his crust not in the groves of academe but mainly in the jungles of journalism. The book was written as he also prepared a TV series by the same title, but this is a genuine book and not a script. However the impression he is trying to create is the right one - this is not a treatise but an attempt to explain, in layman's terms, nothing less than the history of humankind from an economic perspective.I seem to sense that the author is more on his home ground when he reaches the modern world starting with Adam Smith, David Hume, Malthus and Ricardo, and going on to the era since their time. However I don't doubt for an instant that he has good academic backing for his early foray into prehistory and anthropology. What I value this book for is the sense it conveys of a firm grasp of the subject-matter and the feeling of rationality about the analysis that we are offered. The tone is urbane and not disputatious - the writing of a gentleman - and viewpoints that Jay finds unconvincing are at least treated with civility. By family tradition his politics are Labour, but while both he and I think of economics as a political subject by its very nature, this is no kind of party political tract or anything resembling one. It would be unjust to pigeonhole Jay's viewpoint in any crude sense, which is why I shall not call it Keynesian. Nevertheless it is not only his detached intellectual analysis but his political values that keep him out of sympathy with the kind of economic aspirations and standards currently fashionable in Washington, where he was once the British ambassador.There are 10 chapters, 9 of them historical or prehistorical and finally his own prognostications. He commits himself in these less firmly than some comment I have read might suggest, and this final chapter reads to me more like a man assessing odds and hedging his bet. He sees how the formidable mind of Keynes was nevertheless the creature of Keynes's background and milieu, and he harks back to Darwin and Adam Smith by way of correctives. Indeed the early sages are never long absent from his narrative, and above all he invokes repeatedly a 3-step sequence of action reaction and outcome in political economics that he calls the waltz motif. I found the later chapters more gripping than any novel, as Jay discusses the industrial revolution, the 19th century in its successive phases, the period up to 1913, WWI and the dreadful Treaty of Versailles, the inter-war years, WWII, the Marshall Plan and the cold war, the collapse of communism and recent developments. The economic perspective, as presented by such a presenter, sometimes sheds new light that is downright startling (in this author's unhistrionic way) as in his commentary on Stalin's change of mind over the Marshall Plan. Outright humour is infrequent, but some understated moments are worth looking out for, and I treasure the wry touch as he works through the supposed causes of the industrial revolution, quoting some other source to the effect that certain historians boil these down so far as almost to suggest that nothing caused it. That might have entertained David Hume.As well as the main chronological narrative Jay explores economic history along a national axis, focusing on China, India, the Soviet Union and its outcome, Europe, America and the incoherent residuum that goes by the name of the third world. History is not my own strong point (lots of things are not my strong point) but my grasp has improved in recent years and I still got some major surprises from what Jay told me. Altogether this is a work for thinking people and reasonable people. Jay is not without firm viewpoints, but they are always rational and never dogmatic. Above all it is a work for the general reader who may commonly find economics dry or unintelligible or both. The book is recent enough for the author to dip his toe in the contentious issue of environmental degradation, and I found his economist's analysis of the prospect of global warming fascinating when analysed from the point of view of energy resources and output. The author comes across as outstandingly agreeable in temperament, and I don't know whether it is part of his contribution to resource conservation that in the numerous pictures in which he appears he seems only to own one shirt.Interesting, illuminating, thoughtful and thought-inspiring - an item of high value in every proper sense.

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