Unfair review of Goklany

In: Uncategorized

22 Jun 2007

James Surowiecki, a staff writer on the New Yorker, has written an unfairly critical review of Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World for Foreign Affairs. Surowiecki concedes that “Goklany’s rebuttal to the environmental doomsayers is both welcome and convincing”. But he then goes on to argue that: “Goklany’s account leaves out too much that matters and pretends that incredibly complex phenomena can be explained away with a few catch phrases.” Surowiecki then goes on to argue that political struggle and the state have played a greater role in human progress than Goklany suggests. Surowiecki then suggests that economic development is a complex business and future advance is not inevitable.

To me this is a classic case of arguing that an author should have written a different book rather than reviewing the one that he did write. It is true that Goklany can occasionally be cavalier in attributing growth and technological development. But his main point is surely right: there is a strong correlation between an increasingly prosperous economy and improvements in human well-being. Explaining economic development in different countries is an immensely complex task. But that is not what Goklany is trying to do.

Comment Form