In 2002, PBS aired a six-hour documentary based on the book. This documentary was later sold on DVD, and is available for viewing free at PBS’ web site for those with high-speed Internet connections (see external links). The documentary is narrated by David Ogden Stiers.
Thanks to its later date, the documentary film is able to address many of the items Yergin and Stanislaw missed in their original book, including the recession, the collapse of Asian economies, the anti-globalization movement, and the attack on New York City. All told, two of the documentary’s six hours—the entire final third—address things that happened since the original book was published. They also include free market solutions to international poverty that was not included in the book – they interview economist Hernando de Soto, whose book on the subject was not published until after the initial printing of Commanding Heights.
Like the book, the documentary attracted more support and criticism. One example is the anti-globalization movement, which argued they were portrayed unfairly. In the documentary, James Wolfensohn, then President of the World Bank, is interviewed and says that such protesters are attacking people “who are devoting their lives to addressing the very questions that these people claim to be addressing.” The documentary includes a scene of Wolfensohn getting hit in the face with a pie by a protester.
Unlike the book, the PBS documentary is far more wary of the possible end of the current era of globalization. For example, they include a parallel between radio stocks of the 1920s and dot com stocks of the 1990s – both were industries built on new technology which had little capital, but which fell prey to a market bubble. Likewise, the documentary draws an unsettling parallel between the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorist assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914.
The documentary is also accused of further oversimplfying the so-called “Battle of Ideas” between Keynes and Hayek. For example, in the DVD version, Keynes is named together with Karl Marx and Lenin as supporters of controlled economies. However Keynes saw himself as a liberal, in both the party political and economic senses of the term.
Commanding Heights – The Battle for the World Economy – EP1
Commanding Heights – The Battle for the World Economy – EP2
Commanding Heights – The_Battle for the World Economy – EP3