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Book Review: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

January 1, 2009

The Post-American WorldThere are few commentators, “speaking heads,” who I respect more than Fareed Zakaria. Most have little of value to add to the so called “news” of the day and ask what seems to me to be pretty inane questions much of the time. Zakaria digs in; and this book is no exception to his professional pursuit of a new view.

What I liked most about the book was Zakaria’s point that the decline of America, while being exacerbated by some of our choices, is more a result of “the rise of the others.” This is not a gloom and doom portrayal of a superpower gone amok as much as it is an explanation of why the rest of the world will be soon getting its chance at growth. While growth of the global economy is not entirely a zero sum game, surely the industrialized nations will need to share the wealth with the up-and-coming nations.

Of course China is a huge economy with which the rest of the global economy must come to grips. America, as always, is dazzled by size and China therefore holds a particular fascination for us. For now, the mutual needs of each country have led to a wise collaboration. Yet, we cannot forget the “old ally,” India.

Many visitors consider India to be “not very pretty.” Much of the infrastructure of the country is dilapidated and in dire need of attention. India (much like Portugal and Greece) has a GDP Profile comprising 50% service revenues, 25% manufacturing revenues and 25% agricultural revenues. While India is moving forward to address the infrastructure issues, they will hopefully not fall prey to the illusion of its impact on GDP. It may look good for visitors, but it doesn’t necessarily add to the GDP and may well add to the overall cost of providing services.

America may still be the world’s only superpower for some time to come. It should aggressively plan for the day when the economic power passes to one or several of the main players in the global economy. Meanwhile, we should put our economic house in order and reign in spending beyond our means. We must pay attention to education and raising the next generation of innovators to provide the grist for the global manufacturing mill. We must maintain then extend our lead in being the world’s invention machine.

This is a well thought out presentation in clear and concise prose that will be very valuable to anyone dealing in the new global economy. I guess these days, that’s just about everyone.

Related Post: What the U.S. Can Learn From China

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