ISBN: 978-0-241-46795-4

Ådne Cappelen

Statistics Norway

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The authors of this book are well-known British economists. Their examples refer mainly to the UK, but most of them are easily recognised and relevant for policy discussions in other countries. Collier & Kay argue that an exaggerated belief in standard neoclassical economic models to understand the world and design policies has not been helpful. Also, the rise of individualism has weakened the ability of societies to work together for common purposes. Thus, '… the central argument of this book is to reconcile our communities and our economies'. Referring to communitarian philosophers, they worry '… that community is being eroded by the values and practices of the market'. While the authors are not market fundamentalists, they are in favour of the market as a vehicle for experimentation and pluralism in decision making. Based on experiences with state intervention and control in the UK and elsewhere, they are sceptical of state monopoly institutions. In this perspective, the state is necessary, but it should '… aim to complement, and sometimes regulate, other forms of provision, rather than replace them'. This centrist position of communitarian politics is sometimes criticised for being unclear. However, in the final chapter of the book they outline a set of policies at the regional level: Decentralisation of political power with economic autonomy, a locally based financial industry that uses tacit knowledge to support industry, regional political autonomy and an organised business community that includes unions, to develop local education and research institutions and other infrastructure investments that promote economic development. For a Scandinavian reader these policy proposals sound familiar. In the UK they don't.