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Book Summaries: Part 3

Citing a book is one of the most impressive things you can do in an extemp speech. Beyond presenting an opportunity to cite distinguished scholars, books typically hold complex political, social, and economic theories that add sophistication to your speeches. Below is a list of a few books you may want to cite in your next speech. 

Before summarizing these books, I feel obliged to mention that you should take these authors’ assertions with a grain of salt. While certainly thought-provoking, political science is a diverse field, and ideas often come into conflict with one another. Thus, the point of this article is not to suggest that these books hold incontrovertible truths. Rather, the point of this article is to present you with a few books you could cite in your next speech. Here are the links to part one and part two. Enjoy!

Book 1: Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz 

  • Author qualification: Joseph Stiglitz is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
  • Globalization is defined as “the interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide.” Proponents of globalization are also advocates of free trade and international cooperation.
  • There are five main criticisms of globalization: it excessively favors developed nations, it overly prioritizes money over other important considerations like the environment, it undermines the popular will of the people because loans have too many strings attached (this gives financial institutions leverage over how other countries act), globalization has failed to boost the global economy, and it has forced a new economic system onto developing countries.
  • To address the problems of globalization, global governance structures must be utilized, so the concerns of every country can be voiced. Moreover, financial organizations like the IMF should focus on employment and income rather than inflation. Finally, people must adjust their lifestyles to limit climate change.
  • Collectively, balancing the competing interests for & against globalization will result in the most effective international system, sustainably and democratically growing the global economy. 

Book 2: The End of the Euro by Johan van Overtveldt 

  • Author qualification: Johan Van Overtveldt is a Belgian journalist and politician. He was Belgium’s Minister of Finance from 2014 until 2018.
  • The euro, a currency adopted by many members of the European Union, was originally created to promote economic integration on the European continent.
  • Since many countries use the euro, policymakers must balance competing interests; printing too much money hurts larger economies like Germany and France, while printing too little hurts smaller economies like Greece and Portugal. This means that the EU is forced to adopt a “one size fits all” approach for the euro, which invariably hurts certain economies.
  • This happened in 2008: the European Union didn’t print enough money, which devastated economies like Greece, Portugal, and Spain (to be fair, it did limit excessive inflation in countries like Germany and France). Looking at a history of other monetary unions in Europe, like the Scandinavian Monetary Union and the Austro-Hungarian Monetary Union, this situation was foreseeable.
  • The EU is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Until the European Monetary Union fundamentally changes, Euroscepticism will continue to plague the organization until it finally disintegrates. For the sake of the EU’s survival, it must adapt in the wake of changing tides.

Book 3: The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan 

  • Author qualification: Peter Zeihan is an American geopolitical analyst and author. By analyzing geographical, political, and demographic data, he makes predictions about future political and economic trends.
  • The United States created the modern-day economic system during the Bretton Woods conference after World War II. This was because the Bretton Woods Agreement affirmed the US dollar as the world currency, since every other currency was pegged (or tied) to it.
  • In the wake of World War II, the US built up a naval network to contain the influence of the Soviet Union, which increased the United States’ military strength while simultaneously fueling the spread of global trade.
  • Today, the system the US helped create is becoming less needed for America: the Soviets are gone, America’s economic partners are becoming less relevant due to aging populations, the US is geographically isolated (it only borders Canada and Mexico, two nations unlikely to go to war with the US), and the US is becoming energy independent thanks to shale oil. As a result, the US will disengage from the world since the challenges and opportunities of the 20th century no longer exist.
  • This disengagement will create international disorder; the 20th century was peaceful as a result of US leadership.

Book 4: The People vs. Democracy by Yascha Mounk 

  • Author qualification: Yascha Mounk is a German-American political scientist and a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
  • In Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and (formerly) the United States, populists with authoritarian tendencies have seized power, putting global democracy itself at risk.
  • Liberal democracy—a political philosophy that promotes freedom—is composed of two elements: individual rights and popular will. However, these two elements have come under increasing conflict as a system of “democracy without rights” (illiberal democracy) has emerged.
  • Beyond illiberal democracy, there is also undemocratic liberalism or “rights without democracy.”
  • There are three factors driving people away from democracy: stagnating living standards, fear of multiethnic democracy, and the rise of social media. To undo this trend, politicians need to embrace policies that will benefit the majority, not an elite few. 

By Ananth Veluvali

Founder, the Extemper's Bible.

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