Amy Chua's World on Fire

by Scott Albers

Book Review

December 15, 2003


Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred And Global Instability, Doubleday, December 2002; ISBN 0-385-50302-4.

Amy Chua's World on Fire is the most important political work to be written in the past ten years, and perhaps the most important political work to be written since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cogent, well-written, succinct and understandable, the author states her thesis clearly and supports it with concrete examples. One is left with the unmistakable sense that a prophet is among us.

Her fundamental position is clear:

1) Human beings, and by extension the ethnic groups which they compose, have profoundly different levels of access to economic resources -- i.e., different levels of skills, different family influences and connections, differing familiarity with free markets, differing levels of personal drive, etc.

2) Globalization, the extension of free trade and markets worldwide, progresses against this very uneven human geography of skills.

3) Globalism and international free trade tend to exaggerate, not reduce, the economic differences between people, and between ethnic groups.

4) When these differences are clearly aligned with ethnicity, pogroms/holocausts must inevitably follow as the only means available to eliminate the influence of an increasingly rich and isolated minority over an increasingly disenfranchised and destitute majority.

The ethnic groups chosen to demonstrate the dynamics of these principles are Chinese in Southeast Asia, "White" wealth in Latin America, Jews in Russia and the Ibo of Nigeria. One reads of the pursuit and arrest of the very Jews named in the book with a sense of premonition. More is, and must be, on the way if Ms. Chua is to be believed.

World on Fire is not an emotional attack on the evils of globalization. Rather the book warns about an intractable and apparently unavoidable limitation on the benefits of international free trade, to wit: the markedly increased likelihood of political instability in the countries and areas affected, up to and including genocide. College courses and texts on the glories of free trade generally do not identify mass murder as an aspect of supply and demand. According to Ms. Chua, they should.

The principles and observations presented in World on Fire are not given in any other text known to me, and the topic bears far more study than that given in a single book. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the social dynamics of the rapidly developing global economy. It is an absolute masterpiece of style, clarity and analysis.

Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred And Global Instability, Doubleday, December 2002; ISBN 0-385-50302-4.

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Scott Albers graduated from St. Louis University in 1982 and the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia in 1986. He is a criminal defense attorney in Great Falls, Montana.

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Published December 15, 2003
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