Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Biz trips. Biz trips. Biz trips. If not for the business trips, I doubt I'd be anywhere as well read as I am (or at least claim to be). This time around, it's my now sort-of-standard London-Paris-Stockholm troika and the book was Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers.
AC is a bit lighter fair than most of the books I've reviewed over time in the blog - it doesn't purport to be a serious academic thesis or comprehensive inquiry. Instead, it's Jim Rogers' travelogue documenting his 152,000 mile road trip around the world with his wife / fiance and liberally peppered with emotional / personal topics on Jim's mind (for ex., the death of his father while on the trip). AC is a sequel to a previous well-selling book titled "Investment Biker" Rogers wrote about a similar around-the-world trip on a motorcycle.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book and strongly recommend it. It's a fun read while still being quite educational - a sort of cross between Cosmo/Vogue and Cliffs Notes but for International Affairs minded.
I became acquainted with Rogers back in the early / mid 90's when he, with his signature bow ties, was a VERY frequent comentator on CNBC (back when it was called FNN and before Neil Cavuto made the leap to FoxNews). As a college student, I was pretty impressed with his wit and powers of observation all from a decidedly libertarian-esque perspective. He was just as keen to launch a tirade against Democratic policies as Republican-ones and was one of the few commentators on the national TV networks to so strongly espouse classical liberal themes. This knowledge + a few casual references I've read in the web propelled me to pick up AC in a London Bookstore on Oxford Street.
Rogers' political / economic philosophy provides the common thread that holds the book together. Rogers tours 116 countries with a capitalist-eye-view of what makes their cultures, economies and governments tick. This intersection has been a long term interest of mine over the years and Rogers delivers handsomely. His approach is rather simply laid out [p 4]
Most of the book consists of a paragraph or 2 of his sights in a given country padded with a few more paragraphs providing a history lesson and/or snapshot of the nation's current health. There's definitely enough material in here to give you a taste of just how nuanced the differences are between the different nations of Africa, for example. However -- and I can't entirely fault him here -- a felt a few of his theories needed to be taken with a grain or two of salt. Anecdotal evidence is great for flavor but I fear he occasionally makes some sweeping cultural observations without enough data to back it up...
Being a good classical liberal, Rogers doesn't fail in delivering diatribes against the socialist-esque international bodies -- particularly NGO Aid organizations. This passage, for example, describes the NGO employees he meets in his nearly 1 year drive through Africa and Central Asia [p 44]:
The NGO's and aid agencies, Rogers contends, are becoming the new appartchiks of the peculiar socialism of Transnational Progressivism. They may honestly believe they are performing a useful function but the net result is readily identifiable in our coldwar history books. Another example [p 189]:
Similar to the issues created by the NGO organizations, Rogers lives up to his "on the street reporting" promise by describing the impact of other forms of Western charity on local economies - in this case, an anecdote from Ethiopia and free food [p 203]:
Perhaps even more disturbing, he describes the outright fraud being waged against Western charities by unscrupulous middle men who take donated clothing + physical objects and sell them at submarket prices to the intended destination country [p 204]:
Despite these excerpts, Rogers does see some extraordinary activity and the proper confluence of culture + government + economic soundness coming together in several regions. He's particularly impressed by activity in China and some regions in Africa (particularly Ghana) and South America (particularly Chile).
An economic snapshot of the world in 200 pages. And entertaining to boot. Not too shabby.