Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Post-American World

I just finished an excellent book, The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International and writes a column for Newsweek on foreign affairs. I've read his column since I got a chance to meet him when he came to Calvin to give a lecture at the January Series.

Zakaria is probably a liberal, but he is no ideologue, and while I don't agree with all his ideas, he is as knowledgeable as anyone on what's going on in the world. The book is not about the decline of America, but about the rise of the rest: since the fall of the Soviet Union, as the world embraced the free market, there has been huge economic growth in Asia, Africa, and and South America. Zakaria gives special attention to China and India.

I was amazed to learn that for most of the last 650 years, the GDP per capita in China and India remained stagnant at about $500-600. Since embracing free markets about 30 years ago, China's economy has grown by 9% a year. 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty and the average income is seven times higher.

Globalization is changing the world, and fast. The "rise of the rest" is changing the balance of power. Zakaria claims that this post-American world is "one defined and directed from many places and by many people." He explores what these developments mean for our economy and our foreign policy. He is very critical of the Bush administration but also laments the lack of support within the U.S. for free trade. If you are interested in these topics, I think you'll really like the book.

Generations from now, when historians write about these times, they might note that in the early decades of the 21st century, the United States succeeded in its great and historic mission - it globalized the world. But along the way, they might write, it forgot to globalize itself.

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