Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

PBS’ documentary Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy is one of the most fascinating and worthwhile documentaries I’ve seen in quite some time. Based on the book of the same name by Yergin and Stanislaw, the series describes the evolution of the world economy from the early 20th century until now.

The first episode — entitled “The Battle of Ideas” — discusses the post-war “battle” between the ideas of Keynes [pdf] and the socialists; and the ideas of Hayek and a small band of intellectual dissidents who maintained a belief in the free market when it wasn’t particularly fashionable to do so. As the PBS website explains:

For more than half a century the battle of ideas will rage. From the totalitarian socialist systems to the fascist states, from the independent nations of the developing world to the mixed economies of Europe, and the regulated capitalism of the United States, government planning will gradually take over the commanding heights.

But in the 1970s, with Keynesian theory at its height and communism fully entrenched, economic stagnation sets in on all sides. When a British grocer’s daughter and a former Hollywood actor become heads of state, they join forces around the ideas of Hayek, and new political and economic policies begin to transform the world.

The complete first episode can be viewed here.