Gotta Read It

Okay, it’s last year’s book. But I just found it in Logan airport at the start of my current Madrid-Paris-L.A. trip.


The book: The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, by Pietra Rivoli. The complex issues of trade, globalization, market-power, and market imperfections are brilliantly told via the life of a single T-shirt. Made in China? Obviously! Sorta. How about “Teksa”? The T-shirt “maker,” Chinese, patiently explained to the author that this saga starts in Teksa. That is, West Texas, where the cotton is grown. And why is Texas-the U.S.A. still tops in the global cotton market? Um, our markets are not quite as open as we’d like to make the rest of the world believe. There is no “big political message” here. As a professional economist, the author began the story with a very “open markets” bias. It’s not that she lost that bias, but that the can of worms (T-shirt) she opened turned out to be, well, full of worms. Nothing is as it seems; think of this as a product of the John LeCarré School of Economics. Though published in 2005, this is my 2006 “book of the year.” No issue.