Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss used to tell Candide, and many of today's social, political, and, especially, economic pundits owe the good doctor a greater debt than they have acknowledged. Panglossian optimism flourishes in all times and social conditions; there is always a willing audience for defenders of the status quo. Contemporary Panglossians tend to work with a debased form of the Whig narrative of progress: capitalism is the best of all possible economic systems; democracy is the best of all possible political systems; capitalism leads to democracy, and democracy leads to peace.
That in a nutshell has been the credo of both the Bush and Clinton administrations. The triumph of liberal capitalism and liberal economics signifies, in Francis Fukuyama's formulation, the end of history, and unsatisfactory as it might be, the world that has emerged is the best of all possible worlds.
William Greider's new book is a contemporary Candide, an attack on the platitudes that guide policymakers. But it is to Rousseau, perhaps, rather than Voltaire that one should look for his true literary antecedent: it has been said that the second edition of the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau was bound in the skins of those who had scoffed at the first. If half the shocking things William Greider says in One World, Ready or Not turn out to be true, a similar fate lies in store for what will undoubtedly be a legion who scoff at Greider.
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One World, Ready or Not is a wildly ambitious and wildly uneven book of revisionist economics, and Greider hammers his heterodox propositions home as enthusiastically as Martin Luther nailed his revolutionary theses to the doors of the Wittenburg Cathedral. "The whole of Aristotle is to theology," wrote Luther, "as darkness is to light." Greider is no less insistent that the conventional wisdom now guiding the world's governments and international institutions is little more than darkness made
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