‘Tell us why the world is such an unhappy place’ is a common instruction from publishers to economic pundits these days. The response has been shelves of books addressing the impact of globalisation, automation, executive greed, social media and all the other things that are perceived to have angered voters and led them to make quixotic voting choices: hence Donald Trump as US president and the UK leaving the European Union.
Naturally, some of those books are better than others, both in elucidating the problems and – the more difficult part of the task – in proposing original solutions. A recent example is Robert Peston’s WTF, a discursive trot around several of these fashionable themes that in the end tells us more about the author’s inner angst than it does about how the world might set itself on a fairer, more stable course.
By contrast, Edge of Chaos, by the Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo, is intensely focused in its purpose and forthright in its findings. It has narrative drive; it is not self-indulgent or too long; and it uses statistics and other factual evidence from wide-ranging sources to powerful polemical effect.