Simon & Schuster, 2006
The description on the front flap of the dust cover says, “What Freakonomics does for understanding the economy, The J Curve does for better understanding how nations behave,” and, quite frankly, this is one of the most accurate sentence-long summations of a book I have ever read. Just like Freakonomics, The J Curve is a fascinating and illuminating read.
The central question that Bremmer intends this book to answer is, “How can we better understand the natural processes that erode the power of authoritarian regimes and nourish open governance?” As he indicates in the very first paragraph of the Foreward this process is important for us to understand in this age where political instability in one nation, or even within a small region of a state, can lead to a myriad of nightmare scenarios including regional economic instability and nuclear terrorism. He goes on to point out that this understanding is critical to formulating more effective foreign policy.
The center piece of Bremmer’s method of answering this question is the titular J curve. Basically Bremmer’s J curve plots the stability of a nation on the Y axis and the openness of the nation on the X axis. This curve, which resembles a check mark more than an actual J, has states with authoritarian regimes, such as
After introducing the J curve model, Bremmer then walks the reader through several different examples of states at various points on the curve, beginning with three states which are on the extreme left of the curve,
Bremmer then discusses
Bremmer then takes the reader step-by-step through states which demonstrate the two other major positions on the J curve. The depths of the J curve are exemplified by
This book was a very enjoyable and surprisingly quick read considering the subject matter and I highly recommend it to any person with an interest in the rise and fall of states in the post Cold War world.