Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria-- Review

The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria-- Review

I did not like The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria. I thought it was a hyped up book designed to capitalize on Americans preconceptions of how the world works. The book focused on India and China and their rise in the world. It fed into the idea that a rising China will be the most important world power. So will a rising India. I think that this is overblown. Certainly, the world is changing, but not in the way the author is describing.

While the book applauds China's rise to being the largest manufacturer, it does little to point out that while China is a producer of cheap goods, it is not as productive in patents and selling end products where most of the money is made. Essentially, China has become the worlds manufacturer for basic goods the world over.

It also applauds India's rise as a manufacturer and producer of services. Once again, the book misses the boat in many ways. The Philippines are producing nurses, doctors, and programmers and sending them abroad. Indonesia is doing the same. We look at India and we see their ubiquitousness in customer service and call center work. India is very good at producing high technology manufacturing. The Tata corporation is massive. It already is producing the worlds cheapest cars.

My main objection to the book is that it mainly focuses on second world countries, glosses over the European Union, and does not touch deeply enough on the rise of the Scandinavian countries, Australia, and Canada. While India and China are important, several other things which will have more impact are already occurring than the rise of India and China.

Also, I think it avoids talking about the rise of the Central Asian Republics, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and the rebirth of Turkey as a world power. There is also very little about the coming energy crunch which will reshape the middle east.

The Canadian, Australian, and European currencies are matching the dollar. Canada is growing much stronger economically. Australia is also. Canada has the largest reserves of tar sands or hard to extract oil. It is also adopting clean energy technologies at a much greater pace than the United States.

We look at China making goods, but the book does not acknowledge what is happening with  German reunification. Germany is becoming even more of a manufacturing powerhouse. It is now the third largest exporter in the world after China. Germany is not manufacturing cheap goods. German machinery is already becoming superior to American counterparts. For example, BMW had to send Americans to Germany to train them for precision manufacturing. No American trade school could match their training.

There is a brief nod toward Sweden when Fareed Zakaria mentions that China is looking towards the Swedish model for its future economic and political success, not the American model. However, the author once again does not acknowledge the changes in politics which are putting many of the Scandinavian countries as the model for economic and political development. It is not just in economics that we are seeing changes. Australia, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, and many of the European countries have higher standards of living than the United States.

United States politicians like this author are telling us to look backwards and be afraid of (BRIC) Brazil, Russia, India, and China because they are taking jobs away from us. It is called outsourcing. These jobs, however, are often not the highest paying jobs, nor the most technically skilled.

In many areas of manufacturing other countries are moving way ahead of the United States. The United States imports most of its solar panels from Japan and Germany. Vestas sends us many of our new windmills. We buy many of our cell phones from Nokia.
Mr. Zakaria talks about how the world is slowly pulling out of poverty. India and China have moved away from a large portion of their populations being in poverty. So have many other countries like Nigeria and Vietnam. This is a good sign that the world is changing in positive ways. However, it has not changed enough. There is still too much poverty in the global south.

I think the book panders to much to what we expect seeing. It focuses too much on China and India which are important, but not as important as the story of the rise of  Australia, the Scandinavian countries, Canada, and the expansion of the European Union. The book should have been more inclusive. I thought it missed too much.


Steve said...

I really appreciate this review. I'm reading the book right now and do find so far it is absent of any mention the kind of issues you've mentioned. Do you have any recommended readings that would fill these gaps? Particularly with regard to Canada and Australia?

Book Calendar said...

The central tenet that this book does not address is the concept of Standard of Living. The United States has already been eclipsed by many other countries in terms of quality of life and standard of living. Australia, Germany, Denmark, and Canada are providing better basic services and jobs than the United States right now.

Take a look at indices like the Human Development Index to start,

Take a minute to look at the highest quality of life also as of 2009. Ask what this means.

Read carefully on Canada, they are a net exporter of oil and timber.

There is a backward argument going on one of fear. The United States has been eclipsed, but not by India or China in terms of standards of living or livelihood but the European powers.

China and India still are nowhere near what the United States has to offer in terms of livelihood, yet we hear a constant focus on them instead of countries that are doing better than the United States economically.

I am really not sure why this is. It is hard to find basic information on this.