Social Darwinism at its best
Speaking to reporters at the launch of
This, indeed, is the central message of
Building on the appeal of works such as
Those who don't experiment are usually trying to avoid to never fail, but then they can never win either. Successful people and organisations fail a lot but when they do succeed, they do so on a truly rewarding scale.
The logic is succinctly and convincingly argued, and examples are drawn from a variety of topical issues - the Iraq war, international aid programmes, and the 2008 global banking meltdown, among them. Harford's lucid, jargon-free prose, coupled with his mastery of deftly chosen topics, provide fresh insights into why 21st century events have unfolded in the manner they did.
The big driver then is all "social Darwinism" - institutions and behaviours of immense complexity arise more from adaptation than from design. This has implications across a dizzying array of human endeavour - from regulation of the financial markets, corporations, and competition policy, to military strategy on distant battlefields.
But Hartford is on best form when talking about the global financial crisis, which he says was compounded by the complexity of the financial markets in addition to self-evident macroeconomic policy errors on a biblical scale. Policy-makers around the globe made a bad call on cheap credit from China, and other emerging economies, and we are all still paying the consequences, he asserts with conviction.
The book's subhead reads: "Success always starts with failure". One wonders what was the failure that set him up - an overachieving author (still in his 30s) - for success. As Harford explained at the book's launch: "I was working on a book ... it was going to be a sort of Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones' Diary-styled fictional comedy, in which the hero was this economist and through the hilarious things that happened to him, all these economic principles would be explained, which is a great idea. But the trouble is that I am not actually funny."
However, Harford is brilliantly clever, and this fastidiously researched work is an inspiration. Having stumbled with comedy fiction, the redoubtable Harford is going from strength to strength with the facts, as he sees them.
- Any setback is punished by the system
- Setbacks must be viewed as part of the journey to success
- Nobody is clever enough to know in advance what will succeed and what won’t
- Failure is part of life
- Those who refuse to experiment are trying to avoid to never fail