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Political Economy

Doubts about the ability of industrialized countries to continue to provide a sufficient level of retirement benefits to a growing number of retirees has fueled much recent debate and inspired a variety of recommendations for reform. Few major reforms, however, have actually been implemented. In The Political Future of Social Security in Aging Societies, Vincenzo Galasso argues that the success of any reform proposals depends on political factors rather than economic theory.

Reform or Decline

Unless Europe takes action soon, its further economic and political decline is almost inevitable, economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi write in this provocative book. Without comprehensive reform, continental Western Europe's overprotected, overregulated economies will continue to slow—and its political influence will become negligible. This doesn't mean that Italy, Germany, France, and other now-prosperous countries will become poor; their standard of living will remain comfortable. But they will become largely irrelevant on the world scene.

The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches

The idea of America as politically polarized--that there is an unbridgeable divide between right and left, red and blue states--has become a cliché. What commentators miss, however, is that increasing polarization in recent decades has been closely accompanied by fundamental social and economic changes--most notably, a parallel rise in income inequality.

Beyond Good Revolutionaries and Free-Marketeers

Neither socialism nor free-market neoliberalism has been a very helpful model for Latin America, writes Javier Santiso in this witty and literate reading of that region's economic and political condition. Latin America must move beyond utopian schemes and rigid ideologies invented in other hemispheres and acknowledge its own social realities of inequality and poverty.

The enemies of globalization—whether they denounce the exploitation of poor countries by rich ones or the imposition of Western values on traditional cultures—see the new world economy as forcing a system on people who do not want it. But the truth of the matter, writes Daniel Cohen in this provocative account, may be the reverse. Globalization, thanks to the speed of twenty-first-century communications, shows people a world of material prosperity that they do want—a vivid world of promises that have yet to be fulfilled.