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Randall G. Holcombe


Subtitle: How Economic and Political Power is Made and Maintained, Cambridge Univ. Press, N.Y., 2018, index, references, footnotes, paperback


Reviewer comments:

This is a strange book. The author describes (as something newly discovered by economists) the essence of politics well known to have existed throughout history and to comprise some of the essential insights of political science as well described by historians. He admonishes fellow economists for neglecting some of the fundamental concepts he explains. Perhaps he is showing that economists developed amnesia when they divorced themselves from the other half of 'political/economy' and created the famous 'economic man' who made decisions based on maximizing the marginal value of his 'utility factor." It is not clear just what factors he considers as definitive for the definition of capitalism. It is clear that he believes this 'political capitalism' is a recent and expanding phenomena. He does not like it. Everything he writes about the ways in which rulers seek to advance themselves, in all manner, especially in power, is abundantly true but did not begin with 'capitalism'. But I do not believe it requires the development of a new 'theory' to describe what has always been apparent in the historical record.

But, considering that so many of the members of the 'economist' profession think only in theoretical terms, perhaps creating theories that can appear to be divorced from history might generate some interest in the academic world.

For instance, he cogently writes in Chapter 10: "In the nineteenth century, when economics and politics were studied together as political economy, the connection the academic discipline saw between the economy and public policy was more obvious and more explicit than when the discipline divided into economics and political science at the beginning of the twentieth century"

Bravo for this. My contention for years has been exactly that this bifurcation of a unified subject has been the bane of both academic fields. And it has resulted in huge damage far beyond academic thinking, to policies in the real world.




Chapter 1 - The Concept of Political Capitalism


Chapter 2 - Political Capitalism as an Economic System


Chapter 3 - The Political and Economic Elite


Chapter 4 - Interest Groups and Political Exchange


Chapter 5 - Political Creation of Economic Rents


Chapter 6 - Transitional Gains and Rent Extraction


Chapter 7 - The Regulatory State


Chapter 8 - Capitalism Versus Democracy


Chapter 9 - The Institutional Evolution of Political Capitalism


Chapter 10 - Public Policy and Political Capitalism


Chapter 11 - Is Political Capitalism Inevitable?


Some references


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