The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
I read Zakaria’s last book, The Future of Freedom, which focused on what it takes to make what we call a “liberal democracy”. First and foremost it takes a population with enough money to be taxed, because only if the government depends on votes from a population with a real stake, does the government have to be responsive to the people and pay attention to other pillars of liberal democracy like the rule of law, the separation of church and state, public opinion, the market economy etc. So countries in the grip of poverty don’t have a chance until a market economy provides a reasonable per capital income for citizens. A corollary is that rich countries where the wealth comes totally from minerals (like Saudi Arabia) are not democracies and the rules do not serve at the will of the people.
So I was interested in this one. I hear Zakaria frequently on the political talk shows and mostly he makes sense to me. My only question about this one is whether his views have changed in the light of developments in the American economy since the book was published last May.
Zakaria’s thesis is that the future will not determined by solely by the one remaining superpower, the US, but also that the US will not sink into obscurity and lose all influence. What’s critical is “the rise of the rest”. In other words, far from seeing China taking over the superpower spot, Zakaria sees the rise of a significant number of powerful countries in the future: China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico and others. The US will continue to be enormously influential, but there are some traps it needs to avoid. Zakaria compares the fall in influence of Britain and discusses how the situation with the US is different. But mostly he warns that the US will have to welcome “the rest”, learn more about them and pay attention to their interests in their decision making.
I suspect the book, is among other things, advice to the new American administration—even though Zakaria didn’t know who would be president when he wrote it. I did see a picture of Obama, though, getting on a plane with this book in his hand.