The cinematic production in question is a comprehensive six-hour documentary that introduces pivotal concepts and occurrences pertaining to the formation of the global economy. “Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy,” presented by PBS, stimulates the viewer’s capacity for discernment and reflection in relation to economic matters. The series’ name is likely inspired by Lenin’s claim that a governing body could dominate an economy by merely being in control of its key institutions. During a certain epoch, one economic school was operational while the other was not. This prompts inquiry about whether the entire economic framework is inherently unworkable, as no optimal solution appears discernible. Furthermore, scrutinizing whether globalization accords that unify burgeoning markets with worldwide economies may engender the exploitation of developing economies is a subject of inquiry.
The Battle of Ideas
The initial segment of the documentary entitled “The Battle of Ideas” showcases a conflict between two contrasting economic doctrines. In particular, Keynesian economics, which was formulated by John Maynard Keynes, is opposed to the Austrian school of thought, which was developed by Friedrich Hayek (Daniel Yergin, “The Battle of Ideas” 5:15). The economic theories of Keynes and Hayek diverge on the role of government involvement in handling inflation and sustaining the economy. Keynesian economics espouses the necessity of government intervention, while Hayekian economics favors a laissez-faire approach with little or no government involvement. The observer is confronted with a dichotomy in economic planning, wherein the former option advocates for state intervention while the latter option champions laissez-faire principles. The episode showcases a dialectical tension between the tenets of Keynesian economic theory and the principles of unabridged socialism. The presence of divergent ideologies gives rise to a crucial inquiry regarding the rightful custodian of the so-called “Commanding Heights”.
According to the Keynesian paradigm, the establishment of economic planning, in conjunction with prudent government intervention, is a necessary condition for sustainable employment opportunities. It is also the foundation for a diversified economy, whereby the government exercises control over key sectors. During that period, the Keynesian viewpoint had taken up the mantle of economic policy. Communism emerged as a prevailing ideology in regions such as the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. The ascension of the Labour Party was becoming increasingly apparent in Britain (Daniel Yergin, “The Battle of Ideas” 42:43). Within the United States, Keynesian policies were concurrently exerting a significant influence on the economic landscape. Given the prevailing circumstances, Hayes’s notions were deemed to be out of vogue. Nevertheless, approximately three decades after the implementation of Keynesian economic principles, it became evident that these policies were no longer efficacious, as evidenced by a significant escalation in inflationary pressures.
The Agony of Reform
The documentary’s second segment examines the period of tumultuous and radical economic transformations throughout the world. A return to the free market and little government interference was signaled by Reagan’s policies in the US and Thatcher’s initiatives in the UK. For instance, the economy suffered under a communist regime, as it did in the case of Poland. Thatcher inspired the Polish people during her talks and visits there in 1988 (Daniel Yergin, “The Agony of Reform” 43:56). She promoted her views on the free market, stressing how the autonomy of the market can lead to the liberation of people. As a result, Poland started to undergo a significant transition to a free market economy, which was ultimately fairly effective. Chile and India both adopted the same strategy, although in different ways. This is the narrative shared by all the nations shown in this episode: a return to free markets after realizing that Keynesianism’s measures were more perilous than initially believed.
The New Rules of the Game
“The New Rules of the Game” is the concluding part of the documentary that reflects on times when trade barriers were dismantled, the capital could flow freely, and a novel workforce emerged. It posited that the modern global economy could be traced back to the 1990s (Daniel Yergin, “The New Rules of the Game” 4:18). During that era, trade policy emerged as a preeminent concern within the United States. There was a discernible trend among socialists to adopt capitalist principles, as evidenced by the privatization of companies and the abandonment of government oversight in favor of entrepreneurial pursuits. Globalization has engendered an unprecedented surge in international trade, yet it has concurrently precipitated a series of crises. The inaugural trial of globalization is evident in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1993 (Daniel Yergin, “The New Rules of the Game” 10:20). NAFTA provided a surge in investments and bolstered employment opportunities for neighboring countries. Still, it also unfavorably impacted the labor market in the United States. It ultimately prompts a question of the ethical validity of the accords that unite developing markets with worldwide economic systems.
To sum up, “Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy” is an exhaustive documentary that provides an invaluable perspective into the economic history of a global society. It delves into the intricate interplay of divergent economic ideologies and their consequential effects on the global economic scenery. Above all, the documentary prompts inquiries regarding the government’s involvement in economic management and the potential for globalization to result in the exploitation of emerging economies. The series aptly portrays the paradigm shift from Keynesian economic doctrines to free-market capitalism principles, gradually leading to the predicaments of globalization. The “Commanding Heights” series is a stimulating production that contemplates the economic frameworks that mold our planet and urges us to consider how we may establish an equitable and enduring global economy.
Daniel Yergin. “Commanding Heights: The Agony of Reform- Episode Two (Official Video).” YouTube, 15 July 2019.
—. “Commanding Heights: The Battle of Ideas- Episode One (Official Video).” YouTube, 15 July 2019.
—. “Commanding Heights: The New Rules of the Game- Episode Three (Official Video).” YouTube, 15 July 2019.