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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Dec-18 > Books in brief

Books in brief

Books in brief

The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us all Poorer

by Nicholas Shaxson (Bodley Head, £20)

“The mainstream narrative in Britain is that the City of London is the goose that lays the golden eggs.” In The Finance Curse, Nicholas Shaxson says this myth needs to be debunked. Drawing parallels with “the resource curse”—the idea that countries with large mineral reserves suffer from corruption and underdevelopment—Shaxson suggests that countries that are over-reliant on their finance sector actually become worse off. In the UK’s case, with the finance sector’s overall worth being five times the total annual GDP, Shaxson estimates the cost of the finance curse to be £4.5 trillion over 30 years. That adds up to a bill of £170,000 for every household in Britain.

This is a timely argument: might a Brexit deal that weakens the City of London actually strengthen the UK economy? Alas, Shaxson does not explore this question directly. In fact, rather than constructing the case for a “finance curse” in individual countries, Shaxson provides a general overview of the innovations of unfettered capitalism since the 1970s. Documenting bizarre forms of financial engineering in dogged detail, Shaxson asks: “What is it for?”

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In Prospect’s December issue: Timothy Garton Ash and David Allen Green assess Brexit and ask whether it’s too late for things to change. Garton Ash explains how Brexit is just one part of a fracturing Europe and that it might not be too late for the UK’s situation—or that of the rest of Europe—to change. Green takes apart the “shambolic” way that Britain has approached Brexit and suggests a number of options that parliament should strongly consider if minister are to change their views. Elsewhere in the issue: Jo Glanville visits a rural GP surgery and exposes the crises that are played out day-in-day-out all over the country. Stephen Phelan suggests that Spain’s decision to exhume General Franco’s remains threatens to disturb more than his bones. Martin Rees writes about our dreams of understanding the entire universe—and how we may never be able to satisfy that desire.