A Free Nation Deep in Debt:
The Financial Roots of Democracy.
Princeton University Press, May 2006
When Globalization Fails:
The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 2015
"Contrary to the liberal dream, globalization does not lead to One World, but to disruption. Globalization reached a peak in 1913; one year later, the world was at war. In his grand sweep through history, Macdonald makes a crucial point: The global commons does not organize itself; it needs a guardian and guarantor. When Britain shed that burden, the United States took over. Macdonald argues correctly that there is nobody else—neither Russia nor China, which are revisionist, not responsible powers. Only liberal empires take care of the whole. With global conflict rising, the United States has begun to grasp Macdonald’s compelling logic: no protector, no peace. So the twenty-first century need not be a repeat of the twentieth. A smart book that skewers the conventional wisdom.”
—Josef Joffe, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and the author of The Myth of America’s Decline
“Macdonald presents a compelling thesis: Free trade and peace can prosper only under the protection of a single benign hegemon and a multipolar world is unstable. This is a book of great scope and ambition, and one of the most important to be published in recent years.”
—Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England
"a masterpiece of historical narrative, founded on an immense trove of numerical detail, drawn from the records of public finance and credit markets over millennia...Macdonald offers a simple, stunning thesis: Democracy arises from public debt."
—James Galbraith, Professor of Government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Fall 2006.
“A profound and original work by an experienced financial practitioner . . . Macdonald has something exciting to teach all serious students of history—that the evolution of democratic institutions is not just about taxation and representation but also about investment.”
—Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University
“Remarkable . . . [This] book could scarcely be more comprehensive . . . Since Macdonald was for many years a British investment banker, he has a hands-on feel for his subject. But he has not allowed his technical expertise to get in the way of his lucid prose: his argument is readily accessible to a lay reader. And that argument is convincing.”
—Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books
"A challenging yet fascinating work . . . Macdonald employs a broad historical canvas to argue a provocative claim: that the growth of government debt is linked . . . to the emergence of democracy."
—Michelle Wucker, Washington Post
"A scholarly and readable account of how economic development and trade can exacerbate geopolitical tensions. It deserves to be read in the corridors of power in Washington and Beijing."
—Edward Chancellor, Reuters
"Highly readable and informative . . . Macdonald’s history of the past two centuries gives us an insightful view of the past and provides a helpful guide to what the future might hold for the forces of geopolitics, which, as the author elucidates, are always at work.”
—John Steele Gordon, The Wall Street Journal
“Macdonald squeezes a lot into a book of some 250 pages. He traces, from the 1820s to the present, the pendulum swings between open economies at one end and closed, protected ones at the other. Because mainstream economics today—with its central tenet of the pursuit of comparative advantage by economic actors such as states—favors free trade, and because the benefits of free trade over the past 25 years seem so obvious, we see relatively little discussion of the benefits of autarky or of protectionism. Macdonald corrects this. He is by no means against trade or globalization, nor is he arguing for protection. He approaches the topic as a historian . . . simply trying to see the world as it is and to describe it with clarity . . . Macdonald has the courage to follow his own evidence and logic wherever they lead.”
—Scott Malcomson, The Huffington Post