The Commanding Heights

Dave Killion — February 19, 2012

I had a bit of spare time this weekend, and I used some of it to watch “Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy“, based on a book by the same name. It is a six -hour mini series first aired by PBS in 2002, and examines the rise of free markets and globalization in the last century. David L. Littman reviewed the book for The Freeman in 1999, and I think what he wrote applies equally well to the series –

The greatest strength of “The Commanding Heights” is its comprehensive portrayal of socialism’s ascendency—the road to serfdom, as F. A. Hayek put it. Yergin and Stanislaw reveal an amazingly consistent pattern of political connivance and the distressing ease with which professional politicians and their coterie of “economic advisers” systematically capitalize on fear and gullibility among the masses to replace freedom and property rights with central planning and bureaucracy. The authors illustrate how eagerly totalitarians have—and in the future, will—pounce on every economic crisis as an opportunity to grasp more power.

But there are significant weaknesses in the book stemming from the authors’ deficient background in economics. This deficiency leads them to repeat familiar misconceptions about the free market, such as blaming it for the Great Depression. Readers are bombarded by “market failures” as the reasons for the subsequent rise of the central planners, but if the authors had looked more closely, they would have found that government intervention was responsible for all the economic shocks of the century.”

Despite any shortcomings, I highly recommend this show as entertaining and educational. Part One –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omIM4SF1oQQ

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