BOOK NEWS

This page provides a brief description of my most recent books. 


Back cover text

With a group of talented and insightful authors, Beyond the Curse: Policies to Harness the Power of Natural Resources brings clarity and structure to the complex task of managing natural resource wealth effectively, avoiding the many pitfalls, and creating the foundations of sustained inclusive growth. This book is admirable for its sound economic foundations, its pragmatic approach to complexity, and its freedom from orthodoxies. It is a major contribution to a centrally important challenge for much of Africa.

Michael Spence, Professor of Economics, Stern School of Business, New York University

Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

 

Surprisingly (isn’t more always better?) natural resource discoveries, especially in poor countries, have been found to be, more often than not, a problem, rather than a blessing.  Beyond the Curse is a manual on the nature of the problems they spawn, and the policies that will avoid them.  It thus gives guidelines for how natural resources, and their revenues, should be handled.  It is immensely useful, and is the right book on the right problem at the right time. 

George Akerlof, Guest Scholar, International Monetary Fund, and Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California Berkeley

Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

 

Natural Resource bonanzas can finance the transformation out of poverty. But harnessing them for development has proved very difficult. The premium on good policy choices makes the practical guidance in this volume invaluable.

Paul Collier, Professor of Economics, Oxford University

 

Natural resource wealth holds both promise and peril for developing countries. This first-rate book brings together some of the world’s leading researchers, who carefully probe the evidence on the most challenging financial and fiscal issues in resource-rich countries. Their insights, and policy recommendations, are enlightening, accessible, and important.

Michael L. Ross, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles

Beyond the Curse

Editors: Rabah Arezki, Thorvaldur Gylfason og Amadou Sy

Description

Countries with an abundance of natural resources, many of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, often show a record of relatively poor economic performance compared with non-resource-rich countries. The chapters in this volume explore the potential challenges to countries with abundant natural resources and ways to manage these challenges so as to reap the benefits of resource wealth while avoiding the pitfalls. The book is divided into five sections, which explore commodity markets and the macroeconomy, economic diversification and the role of finance, fiscal policy, exchange rates and financial stability, and governance. The ideas in this book were first presented at a seminar in November 2010 that was aimed primarily at policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa and brought together ministers, central bank governors, other senior policymakers, and well-known academics.

 

Foreword
Christine Lagarde

1. Overview
Leslie Lipschitz


Part I. Commodity Markets and the Macroeconomy


2. Natural Resource Endowment: A Mixed Blessing?
Thorvaldur Gylfason, University of Iceland


3. Primary Commodities: Historical Perspectives and Prospects
Marian Radetzki, Luleĺ University of Technology


Part II. Economic Diversification and the Role of Finance


4. Economic Diversification in Resource Rich Countries
Alan Gelb, Center for Global Development

 

5. Finance and Oil: Is there a Natural Resource Curse in Financial Development?
Thorsten Beck, Tilburg University


6. The Economics of Sovereign Wealth Funds: Lessons from Norway
Thomas Ekeli, Ministry of Finance, Norway
Amadou Sy, IMF Institute

Part III. Fiscal Policy


7. What Can We Learn from Primary Commodity Prices Series which is Useful to Policymakers in Resource Rich Countries?
Kaddour Hadri, Queens University Management School

 

8. Sustainable Fiscal Policy for Mineral-Based Economies
Kirk Hamilton and Eduardo Ley, World Bank


9. Fiscal Policy in Commodity Exporting Countries: Stability and Growth
Rabah Arezki, IMF Institute


Part IV. Exchange Rates and Financial Stability


10. How Can Commodity Exporters Make Fiscal and Monetary Policy Less Procyclical?
Jeffrey Frankel, Harvard University

11. Natural Resources Management and Financial Stability: Evidence from Algeria
Mohammed Laksaci, Governor, Bank of Algeria

 

12. Copper and Macroeconomic Fluctuations in Chile
José De Gregorio, Governor, Central Bank of Chile


Part V. Governance and Institutional Aspects


13. The Political Economy of Reform in Resource Rich Countries
Ragnar Torvik, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

 

14. Terms of Trade and Growth of Resource Economies: A Tale of Two Countries
Augustin Fosu, UNU-WIDER
Anthony Owusu Gyapong, Penn State University-Abington

 

Published by the International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC, September 2011. Available for purchase.


NORDICS IN GLOBAL CRISIS. VULNERABILITY AND RESILIENCE (2010)

Gylfason, Thorvaldur - Holmström, Bengt - Korkman, Sixten - Söderström, Hans Tson - Vihriälä, Vesa

During the past two years, the world has experienced its most severe slump since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The Nordic countries have been hit harder than most other countries.

Due to its sharpness and depth, the current global financial and economic crisis has initiated a wide debate on the supposed self-correcting properties of the market economy, on the need for more effective regulation and supervision of financial markets, and on the role of macroeconomic stabilization policies. It has led to a re-evaluation of the role of monetary and fiscal policy. It calls into question the virtues of unfettered globalization, underlining the need for global institutions and cooperation. It throws new light on the costs and benefits of the welfare state and its risk- sharing mechanisms. The crisis is opening up a broad agenda of essential policy issues for renewed consideration.

This is a report on the global financial and economic crisis from the point of view of small open economies with particular reference to the Nordic economies. The report discusses a number of important questions: Why were the Nordic countries hit hard by a crisis, which apparently had little if anything to do with the stability of their own financial systems or with their competitiveness in global markets? What have the Nordics done and what could they do to alleviate the domestic consequences of the crisis? What are the lessons of the crisis with regard to monetary policy and the different choices of monetary regime across the Nordic region? Is there need and scope for expansionary fiscal policy in small open economies even though fiscal multipliers may be small and large budget deficits may threaten public debt sustainability? How can fiscal consolidation and a resumption of economic growth best be reconciled? Should the Nordic countries reconsider their outward-looking growth model in view of a more unstable global economy? Is the Nordic socio-economic model an asset or a liability in the light of the crisis?

The report offers an in-depth analysis of the macroeconomic issues faced by small open economies in a turbulent world economy. It outlines the main elements of the policies that should guide the Nordic countries in their search for less vulnerability and more resilience.

The book was published by The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) in January 2010. It can be downloaded in its entirety.

Table of contents

1.  Introduction and Summary: Putting the Crisis into Perspective

2.  The Crisis and the Global Policy Response

3.  The Panic of 2007-2008: A Modern Bank Run

4.  Looking Back at Volatility and Growth

5.  Dé Vu: The Crisis of Sweden and Finland in the Early 1990s

6.  Safeguarding Financial Intermediation: Nordic Lessons

7.  From Boom to Bust: The Iceland Story

8.  EMU and the Crisis: Better to Be In or Out?

9.  Can Fiscal Policy Help?

10. Fiscal Consolidation and Growth

11. Building a More Robust Financial System

12. Vulnerability and Resiliance

PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH (1999)

This book is an attempt to explain, in plain prose and pictures, the theory and empirical evidence of economic growth around the world. It is essentially a non-technical book. All equations are confined to appendices at the end of the book (with one exception: E = mc2). Having taught economic growth for some time to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Iceland, I felt that there might be a need for such a book, because much of the new theory and evidence of economic growth has not yet found its way into books other than those intended mostly for doctoral students. Hence this attempt to provide an accessible account of economic growth. The book is intended primarily for students of economics and business administration as well as for business managers, economists, journalists, politicians, public officials, and others who are interested in understanding economic growth.

Richard Feynman was once asked by a younger colleague: "Dick, explain to me, so that I can understand it, why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics." Feynman answered: "I’ll prepare a freshman lecture on it." Feynman came back a few days later and said: "I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we don’t really understand it." This book is written in a similar spirit. It deliberately bypasses some technical aspects of recent growth theory in an attempt to reduce the risk that the reader does not see the forest for the trees.

Moreover, the book has a message, and it is this: To grow or not to grow is in large measure a matter of choice. It is also a matter of justice, for those who usually pay the highest price for the economic growth that did not take place are the poor. The book discusses old and new research that shows that many of the most important determinants of economic growth are clearly within the purview of economic policy. Liberalization, stabilization, privatization, and education are good for growth. The government has an important role to play—and, indeed, responsibility—in all of these areas. It takes a government to privatize, for one thing.

The book was published by Oxford University Press in August 1999.

Those instructors who adopt the book for their courses will be invited to download from this homepage, free of charge, ready-made slides in PowerPoint summarizing the main points of the book chapter by chapter, including all tables and figures.

The table of contents of the book is as follows:


1. Growing Apart

Burma and Thailand
Botswana, Nigeria, and Ghana
Uruguay, Argentina, and Spain
Madagascar and Mauritius
Roots and branches
Quantity and quality
The importance of being efficient
Reforms and growth


2. Roots and Branches

The first revolution: Adam Smith
Adam Smith’s followers
Enter mathematics: Harrod and Domar
The second revolution: The neoclassical model
The third revolution: Endogenous growth
Summary


3. Quantity and Quality

Endogenous growth and technology
Endogenous growth accounting
The level of income with endogenous growth
The neoclassical model again
How strong? How long?
Exogenous growth illustrated
How much to save
Optimal growth in figures
Summary


4. The Importance of Being Efficient

Growing together? Or growing apart?
Absolute vs. conditional convergence
Poverty traps
Case 1: Liberalization
Case 2: Stabilization
Case 3: Privatization
Case 4: Education, health, and distribution
Case 5: Natural resources and geography
Summary


5. Reforms and Growth

Unemployment and growth
Some obstacles to reforms and growth
In conclusion


Appendices

2.1 The Harrod-Domar Model
2.2. The Solow Model: Exogenous Growth
2.3. Endogenous Growth

3.1. More on Endogenous Growth
3.2. More on Exogenous Growth
3.3. Optimal Saving and Growth

4.1. Liberalization, Efficiency, and Growth
4.2. Stabilization, Efficiency, and Growth
4.3. Privatization, Efficiency, and Growth
4.4. Education, Taxes, and Growth


Cast of Characters


Further information from the publisher

Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

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Clean Slate

This is my eighth volume of essays in Icelandic, published in August 2012 in time for the national referendum that the Icelandic parliament held on 20 October 2012 on the constitutional bill prepared in 2011 by the Constitutional Council of which I was a member, elected by the nation and subsequently appointed by parliament, and delivered to parliament 29 July 2011.

The 69 essays in the collection deal with constitutional matters from many different angles. For the story in English, see may papers "From collapse to constitution: The case of Iceland" and "Constitutions: Send in the Crowds".

The book is 150 pages. Poet Kristján Hreinsson writes a foreword. Artist Vignir Jóhannsson painted the cover illustration.


Two Worlds

This is my seventh volume of essays in Icelandic. It was in November 2005 by Iceland University Press. My latest collection of essays, The Future is Another Country, came out in 2001. The one before that, Trade for Gain, came out in 1999. High Time came out in 1995. My first three collections of essay were published in 1990-1993.

The 168 essays in the new collection are divided into ten parts. The first, Culture, deals with Icelandic, writing, theater, films, and music. The second part, Education, development, and organization, discusses educational affairs, children, development assistance, and health care issues. Among other things, I argue for a change in the organization and financing of both education and health care in Iceland. The third part is entitled Peace, defense, democracy, and deals with defense issues at home and abroad, democracy, the Icelandic constitution, war, and peace. The fourth and fith part, Iceland is hot and Politics, discuss various topical issues such as urban planning in Reykjavík, the rules for allocating parliamentary seats to political parties, and the recent privatization of the banks. In the sixth part, Farm protection, fish, and finance, the focus is turned to agriculture, fisheries management, and public finances. One of the questions discusssed here in the context of the quota system in the Icelandic fisheris is this: Should slaveholders have been compensated for the abolition of slavery? The seventh and eighth part, America and Europe and Africa and the East, spans a wide geographical range, including the United States, Europe, Russia, the Faroe Islands, elephants, Africa, the Arab countries, women, terrorism, Asia, and more. The ninth part is called Energy, trade, and growth. It deals with energy issues, oil as well as hydropower, international trade, and economic growth across countries from different angles. The tenth and last part, Profiles and history, tells stories of people, all kinds of people. The last chapter discusses patriotism, which Icelanders refer to as "love of country." The book ends with about 300 brief biographical sketches of the cast of characters who appear in the essays.

The book is 728 pages. 


The Future Is Another Country

This is my sixth volume of essays in Icelandic. It was published in December 2001 by Iceland University Press. My latest collection of essays, Trade for Gain, came out in 1999. The one before that, High Time, came out in 1995. 

The 42 essays in the new collection are divided into six parts. In the first part, Political Economy and History, the subjects include the future of Reykjavík, different views of the world, the powerlessness of public opinion, and Iceland's history of trade over the past 60 years. The second part, Finance and Productivity, takes up people's attitudes to their own and to other people's money, the financial maturity of nations, money, inflation, unemployment, and the standard of life in Iceland and elsewhere. The third part is entitled The Króna and the Euro. It deals with the exchange rate of the Icelandic króna and its recent substantial depreciation and with different exchange rate regimes, including the current question whether Iceland should discard the króna and adopt the euro instead. In the fourth part, Economic Growth and Education, the main sources of economic growth around the world are discussed, including education. Several chapters explore the relationship between natural resource abundance, education, and economic growth. In the fifth part, To Sea, the focus turns to fisheries and agriculture in the context of other aspects of economic life in Iceland, including education. The case for fishing fees is reviewed. The sixth and last part, Other Countries, spans a wide range. It deals with the new economic geography, France, women, the Middle East, and more. 

The book is 368 pages. 

 


Trade for Gain

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This is my fifth volume of essays in Icelandic. It was published in September 1999 with Heimskringla, the University Press of Language and Culture, the largest publishing house in Iceland. My latest collection of essays, High Time, came out in 1995.

The 36 essays in the new collection are divided into six parts. The first part is entitled Economists. There Jón Sigurđsson, our independence hero, is portrayed as a free trader and Iceland's first economist.  There is also a long essay on Icelandic economists and their ways of thinking in addition to other material on foreign economists, including Adam Smith. The second part, One Law, deals with the experience of several countries in South-East Asia, South America, and Africa, the point being that the principles of economics are everywhere the same independently of geographical location. Rivers run downstream wherever you are. The title of the third part is A View from the Stands, which provides a further discussion of some Asian countries, especially Hong Kong and Thailand, in addition to Ireland and Sweden, in an attempt to direct the reader's attention to the implications of different economic policy regimes and  of the different pace and pattern of economic reforms in different places, with references here and there to the experience of Iceland. In the fourth part, Education and Culture, which differs somewhat in content and tone from the preceding material, the reader is offered various thoughts on some problems surrounding education in Iceland as well as on the economic and cultural life of the nation. In the fifth part, Land and Sea, the lens is focused on fisheries and agriculture in the context of other aspects of economic life in Iceland and economic growth prospects in the coming century.  This part includes "Nature, power, and growth", which will appear soon also in English, as well as an essay on the "Prospects for liberalization of trade in agriculture", which was published recently in the Journal of World Trade. The sixth and last part, Work, Revolution, and Growth, deals with employment issues, economic reforms, and growth in Iceland and elsewhere.  It includes, among other things, a short piece called "Am I a revolutionary?" The book concludes with about 80 brief biographical sketches of the cast of characters who appear in the essays, from Idi Amin to Oscar Wilde.

The book is 359 pages. 

 


To Build a Nation

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This small book contains the manuscript of my three television programs that were shown on Icelandic State Television in November 1998, and again in December 1998, when the book also appeared in print in Icelandic. The programs were shown on Faeroese State Television 2005. They were reissued on DVD in 2011.

These programs deal with the history of economic thought in Iceland, during the previous century and our own, by means of a continuing narrative focused on three individuals, Jón Sigurđsson, Einar Benediktsson, and Halldór Laxness.

The first programme is entitled The Trail-blazer, and presents a portrait of the leader of the Icelandic independence struggle, Jón Sigurđsson, known as "President Jón", because he was president of the Copenhagen chapter of the Icelandic Literature Society. He is portrayed as a dedicated proponent of free trade and foreign investment in Iceland: as a champion of liberal economics and Iceland’s first economist. On questions of domestic politics, he was faced with strong opposition, with the result that his leadership and ideas were rejected time and again.

The title of the second program, which deals with the poet Einar Benediktsson, is Captain Courageous. The ideas he advanced for the nation’s economic affairs and progress were a direct continuation of the struggle for freedom led by Jón Sigurđsson, but his views did not win out in the stormy political combat which characterised the early decades of this century. Iceland chose to follow a course quite different from that plotted by Jón Sigurđsson and Einar Benediktsson.

The Critic is the title of the third program. It describes how the author Halldór Laxness responded to the restrictive economic policies followed by the authorities during the 1940s. His arguments for free trade, a more rational agricultural policy, and other economic reforms are described in order to shed light on the economic and social reality in Iceland up until our own times.

A variety of cultural and historical materials are woven into the narrative, including, for instance, details of the personal lives and circumstances of the three men. All of the materials are the result of my own investigations, based on a variety of older and newer sources. Some of the material has already appeared in print. All of the material on Einar Benediktsson, however, is new.

The music accompanying the first program is by Richard Wagner, a contemporary of Jón Sigurđsson. It includes passages from three of his operas: Die Walküre, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Tannhäuser. Die Meistersinger was performed on the stage of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in 1872, only four years after its world premiere in Munich. Tannhäuser, which premiered in Germany during the first years Jón Sigurđsson spent in Copenhagen, was shown in Copenhagen in 1875, four years before his death. It is not known whether Jón saw these works on stage.

In the second program all the music is by Jón Leifs. Einar Benediktsson knew Jón Leifs personally. Icelandic folk melodies arranged by Jón were premiered at Einar’s home, Ţrúđvangur, in Reykjavík in 1925, and the collection included the composer’s own original music to Einar’s poem "Rís ţú, unga Íslandsmerki" (Fly high, young Iceland’s symbol). The tune also appears in Iceland Overture by Jón Leifs dating from 1926.

The music in the third program is by Johann Sebastian Bach, the favorite composer of Halldór Laxness. It includes, for example, preludes and fugues from the Das wohltemperierte Klavier and from Die Kunst der Fuge. Halldór Laxness himself played Bach’s keyboard music at home. "When I am asked what single book I would choose to take with me if I had to spend the rest of my life on a desert island, I always answer: Das wohltemperierte Klavier" (Skáldatími, p. 89).

The book is available with or without a videotape containing the three episodes, which take about 40 minutes each. Actor Pálmi Gestsson plays the roles of the three men. Artist Vignir Jóhannsson designed the sets. Karl R. Lilliendahl handled cinematography and Jón Egill Bergţórsson directed the filming. The author of the script, producer, and narrator is Professor Thorvaldur Gylfason.

The book manuscript is available in an English translation by Keneva Kunz. A few copies of the videotape (VHS) with English subtitles are also available for interested foreign viewers. And now, as said above, the film is available commercially on DVD.


Thank you for coming by.

Aftur í ritaskrá

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Back home

Aftur heim

 

 

 

 

Still Life with Bible
by Vincent van Gogh

Still Life with Bible