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on April 28, 2008
Mr. Zakaria has written a short primer (250+ pages of text) about where the world is today and the role he sees the United States playing in the future. His assessment, for the most part, is fair, balanced and nonpartisan. And though the title of his treatise--The Post-American World--sounds pessimistic, in reality Mr. Zakaria sees the glass half full.

The principal weakness of the book is a product of its brevity: the author paints in broad strokes, providing a sweeping assessment of the dynamic changes that have unfolded on the world scene over the past twenty-five years. This invariably results in some over-generalizations and assessments that are not sufficiently nuanced. For example, in responding to concerns about China's growing power and influence, he quotes several Chinese officials who repeatedly reassure the listener that, notwithstanding its recent advances, China still lags behind the United States in so many areas; consequently, it poses no real threat to America or its neighbors. Instead of taking these sentiments at face value, Mr. Zakaria should remember, as Margaret Macmillan astutely noted in her recent book, "Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World," that the Chinese are the past masters at using self-effacement to lure their adversaries into a state of complacency.

The greatest strengths of the book are explaining to the reader how much the world has changed over the past 25 years (did you know that China now exports more goods and services in a single day than it did in all of 1978?), while illuminating the course corrections the United States needs to make so that it can continue to influence the evolution of globalization. I was surprised to discover that the simple truths taught by Adam Smith have lifted more people above the poverty line in the last 25 years (400 million in China alone) than all the government assistance programs of all the countries in the world since the beginning of time. But I was dismayed to learn that the polices of free trade, liberal immigration, technological change and open government that are the source of this global revolution are no longer warmly received in the United States. Mr. Zakaria notes that in 2007 the Pew Global Attitudes Survey polled citizens in 47 countries for purposes of measuring the extent to which they have positive views about free trade and open markets. Guess where the U.S. came in? Dead last. Mr. Zakaria observes that in the five years the survey has been done, no country has seen as great a drop-off as the United States. It's as if, he says, that for the past sixty years we have extolled the virtues of free markets, immigration, technological change, competition, and democracy, and now that the rest of the world has finally decided to take our advice, "we are becoming suspicious of the very things we have long celebrated." (p. 48).

If you want to look in the mirror and see the warts and disappointments, along with the beauty and promise, of America, read this book. You and our country will be better for it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 3, 2011
The Post-American World: Release 2.0 by Fareed Zakaria

"The Post-American World" is the insightful book about world affairs and America's role. The author makes compelling arguments that it is the "rise of the rest" and not America's decline at the heart of this global era. This 336-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. The Rise of the Rest, 2. The Cup Runneth Over, 3. A Non-Western World? 4. The Challenger, 5. The Ally, 6. American Power and 7. American Purpose.

1. Well-written and well-researched book.
2. Accessible book for the masses.
3. A fascinating topic in the hands of a master.
4. An even-handed book. Mr. Zakaria is fair.
5. Engaging prose that offers countless anecdotes and interesting facts.
6. A lot of misconceptions put to rest: "Poverty is falling in countries housing 80 percent of the world's population". "War and organized violence have declined dramatically over the last two decades".
7. Economics in an enlightening manner, "It was not the Great Depression that brought the Nazis to power in Germany but rather hyperinflation, which destroyed the middle class by making its savings worthless".
8. The three forces that impact the global international environment: politics, economics, and technology.
9. The impact of global growth on natural resources and the environment.
10. Fascinating facts throughout the book,"from 2003 to 2020, the number of vehicles in China will rise from 26 million to 120 million". Wow.
11. Does a great job of explaining the various challenges facing the planet.
12. What the global economy has turned into...
13. National debt at the heart of our problem. $14 trillion...
14. Interesting history.
15. How our world is shrinking.
16. Did you know that women's clothing is a powerful indicator of a society's comfort with modernity? You do now...and much more where that came from.
17. Brief but interesting look at religions that form the rising powers.
18. 1979 as a watershed year for the globe.
19. A fascinating look at China, worth the price of the book. An entire chapter.
20. Walmart and its connection to China.
21. Why China and the Unites States need each other.
22. An insightful look at India. An entire chapter. Great stuff!
23. India's nuclear aspirations.
24. Interesting British history and the ways it compares to ours.
25. American military domination.
26. The economic challenges of America.
27. America's strengths and weaknesses.
28. A very interesting look at our educational system and how it stacks up against the world. Educational indeed.
29. What is America's best industry? Find out.
30. The impact of immigration.
31. The biggest economical threats to our country.
32. The impact of free trade.
33. Sensible reforms that should be enacted.
34. Dysfunctional politics.
35. The six guidelines on how the United States can operate in this new world.
36. Positive future, it's up to us.
37. Links worked great. Excellent notes section.

1. Loved the chapters on China and India but would have loved a chapter on Germany and/or Brazil.
2. Excellent notes section but it never hurts to have a separate bibliography.
3. Charts and illustrations would have added value.
4. The author does speculate and may suffer from moments of grandeur.
5. Too little emphasis on finite resources and the impact to the planet.

In summary, I enjoyed reading this book. Mr. Zakaria took me on a wonderful journey to China and India and provided fascinating information. It provides an excellent summary of global affairs and how this will impact the United States. I highly recommend this book!

Further recommendations: "That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back..." by Thomas Friedman , "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg, "The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment" by Chris Martenson, and "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future (Vintage)" by Robert B. Reich.
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on April 30, 2008
A lot of books have been appearing recently about the rise of China and India, the decline of the United States, and so forth. This is the one to read, and the one that will last.

Zakaria's last book was about "The Future of Freedom," a study of liberalism and democracy. This new one--which is even better, I think--is about the shape of the emerging international system. It's called "The Post-American World," but a better title would have been the one he gives his first chapter, "The Rise of the Rest." That's because Zakaria's central thesis is that the world is changing, but the change is largely for the better and caused by the benign development of other power centers, not some collapse or decline of the United States. The biggest challenge for America, he argues, is not terrorism or nuclear proliferation or a rising China, but rather our own ability to adapt successfully to the new environment. He favors confidence and openness rather than insecurity and barriers, and makes a convincing case.

The book has chapters on each of the major international players, and they're really well done: amazingly, he manages to paint a full portrait of, say, China or India that is intelligent, succinct, subtle, and comprehensive all at once. If you want to get a flavor of what the book has to offer, there's an article based on it in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, and there should be another one coming out in Newsweek too, apparently. The man might be a superachieving bigshot, but he sure can write--each page is lively and interesting.

So forget the angry neocons, the wild-eyed optimists, the gloom-and-doom pessimists, and the glib amateurs who don't really know anything. Read this instead, and get insight into what's actually going in the world and what should be done about it. Plus, there's just a ton of fun little nuggets you'll be itching to drop in every conversation you have about anything related.
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on June 11, 2011
Kindle Edition rating.

I Just downloaded the Kindle version of this book only to discover it is the first edition from 2009. It is an interesting read, however it was confusing to notice that I was buying the older edition - not the recently revised and updated version as I clicked on the Kindle Edition link on the V2.0 edition page to download it.
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on May 14, 2008
Fareed Zakaria writes that three great global power shifts have occurred in the last 500 years: the first was the rise of the West with its advances in science, technology, and commerce; the second was the rise of the US, to superpower status after World War II and to hyperpower status after the Cold War; and the third - the one we are currently experiencing - is the "rise of the rest." The global dominance that the US has enjoyed is rapidly coming to an end, not because of its own missteps - there were many - but because of the extraordinary economic growth in countries such as China, India, Russia, and Brazil. Except for a few pockets of poverty, globalization has been largely successful.

The Post-American World points to the need for America to adopt new ways of doing business with the world, one that is based on "consultation, cooperation, and even compromise" as opposed to go-it-alone unilateralism. American success in the 21st century will depend on how these newly ascendant powers will be integrated into existing institutions such as the G8, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. Even though some of these countries do not meet Western liberal democratic standards they should not be shut out as Robert Kagan suggested in The Return of History and the End of Dreams.

Integrating autocracies such as China, Russia, and the Central Asian republics in the international liberal order will be one of the greatest challenges in international relations in the years ahead. After all, autocracies have been very successful, producing 7-10% annual growth rates. They produce great investment opportunities for foreigners. And their foreign policy of non-interference with the sovereignty of other countries has made them welcome almost everywhere. This purely pragmatic approach, although successful in economics, has many shortcomings in the political realm. Zakaria believes that although they have been successful and even popular, it is important for Western democracies to have solidarity to prevent further backsliding.

Economic growth is only one of the components that keep autocracies in power, another is nationalism. One need only look at the popularity of Putin when he defies the West or China's reaction everytime they feel slighted by foreigners. Nationalism will rise as economic fortunes rise. Zakaria, who is always reasonable and optimistic in his views, believes that nations will be reasonable too. He believes that the newly ascendant powers will not be aggressive militarily if they are embedded in the current system. China, for example, does not need to invade neighboring countries when it can buy whatever it needs. For the time being this is working, but what happens "the rest" become much more powerful and resources become even more scarce? Will the the international order hold or will nationalist impulses rule the day? Zakaria is optimistic, but he still believes that the US will have an indispensible roll in keeping this system in place.
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on July 30, 2008
The author makes the case that the world of the 21st century will be multipolar, with the U.S. not declining in absolute but in relative terms. Zakaria documents his opinions well and makes for good reading. However, I remained unconvinced of two of his assertions: one, that India will be one of the global powers of this century, based on niceties such as its democratic system and the imagined fascination about all things Indian that he attributes to Americans; judging by the evidence stemming from overwhelming poverty, India's inclusion in Zakaria's wishful list may be the product of his upbringing in that country rather than cold facts. The other missing point is his almost total exclusion of the European Union as one of the world's powerhouses of the near future. Particularly when considering Europe's output, social indicators and expansion to the East and the rest of the globe, making almost no mention of the importance of the EU in the world to come seems as glaring a flaw as the absence of evidence to support his forecasts about India. We may not have to wait 100 years to confirm it.
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on August 26, 2008
Overall I think this is a superficial analysis. There are many historical analogies but there were few compelling arguments.

What's more, the editorial job for the Kindle edition is really really bad. It seems that the editor did not know how to typeset the emdash "--". Instead, he/she used two hyphens with a space in the middle "- -". This caused a lot of formatting issues. Also the author's name (!!) did not format correctly in the main menu. I emailed the customer service but there are still no corrected version as of today.
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on July 18, 2008
The book reads much like magazine articles from Newsweek or such. This can be seen as a compliment for some, but it was a disappointing read for me.

The chosen topic of discussion is magnificent, but this book does little more than string together international trivia and point to glossy analogies to the rise of America and fall of Britain. Even though Mr. Zakaria's thesis is not new, a good-faith effort requires more substantiation. The book invariably assumes what it should set out to show (eg, Britain was insular and 'Bismarck' was engaging; America should be like 'Bismarck') and brushes off the inconvenient (eg, average American students score lower than most industrialized countries, but well scoring Americans rank competitively). Mr. Zakaria also distances himself from neoconservative policies and points out that America's marginalization was inevitable.

Although this issue is becoming ever more pressing, 'The Post-American World' doesn't do justice to the topic. People better versed in history or seeking more substance should look elsewhere. On the other hand, it's a glossy read with catchy phrases for the faithful.
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on June 10, 2011
Fareed Zakaria has emerged in recent years as one of America's best minds with respect to foreign policy and international relations. His recent book, The Post-American World, touches on several issues near and dear to our own research. The gloomy title aside (this book got quite a bit of notoriety when then-candidate Barrack Obama was seen reading it during his campaign), Zakaria is actually rather optimistic about the economic prospects of the United States. He does discuss the role of demographics in America's position in the world, which is a good start.

As this book has already been reviewed by countless others, we will steer clear of the sections most often reviewed, which are generally foreign policy related and compare the United States today with the British Empire last century. We'll start instead with Mr. Zakaria's commentary on the US health and pension system, which echoes our own work on the subject:

"Consider the automobile industry. For a century after 1894, most of the cars manufactured in North America were made in Michigan. Since 2004, Michigan has been replaced by Ontario, Canada. The reason is simple: healthcare. In America, car manufacturers have to pay $6,500 in medical and insurance costs for every worker. If they move a plant to Canada, which has a government-run health care system, the cost to the manufacturer is around $800 per worker. In 2006, General Motors paid $5.2 billion in medical and insurance bills for active and retired workers. That adds $1,500 to the cost of every GM car sold. For Toyota, which has fewer American retirees and many more foreign workers, that cost is $186 per car. This is not necessarily an advertisement for the Canadian health care system, but it does make clear that the costs of the American healthcare system have risen to a point that there is a significant competitive disadvantage to hiring American workers."

Zakaria also makes the point that tying healthcare to employment tends to tie people to their jobs and lesson their ability to leave lest they lose their health insurance. It also tends to make them fear free trade and globalization. The result is that the American economy is less dynamic and productive that it would have been under a more fluid labor market.

Moving on, Zakaria also refers to demographics as America's "secret weapon," at least vis-à-vis Europe and East Asia:

"All in all, Europe presents the best short-term challenge to the United States in the economic realm. But Europe has one crucial disadvantage. Or, to put more accurately, the United States has one crucial advantage over Europe and most of the developed world. The United States is demographically vibrant. Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, estimates that the U.S. population will increase by 65 million by 2030, while Europe's will remain 'virtually stagnant.' Europe, Eberstadt notes, 'will by that time have twice as many seniors as older than 65 than children under 15, with drastic implications for future aging. (Fewer children now means fewer workers later.) In the United States, by contrast, children will continue to outnumber the elderly.... Some of these demographic problems could be ameliorated if older Europeans chose to work more, but so far they do not, and trends like these rarely reverse.'"

This goes to show that, with demographics, it's all relative. The United States does indeed have a better long-term demographic prognosis than Europe or East Asia. But that doesn't mean that the prognosis is good. "Less bad" doesn't mean good.

Furthermore, Zakaria falls into the same trap as most economists that have approached this issue. He focuses on demographics as it applies to workers. The Sizemore Investment Letter focuses instead on the demographic characteristics of consumers. As Japan has proven for nearly two decades, a country can still produce with an aging workforce, but it ceases to consume at the same pace. And in an economy dominated by consumer spending, this is a problem.

The Post-American World is full of other interesting points that deserve more space than we can offer here. We highly recommend this book for your summer reading. History buff will also like some of Zakaria's prior works, including From Wealth to Power
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on June 19, 2011
Zakaria is remarkably self-assured. He knows what the future will bring. He knows what America needs to do. And what is the number one thing? Grow. Grow, economy, grow. In that sense, Zakaria's prescriptions are somewhat conservative: less regulation, less taxation, less litigation, less concern about environment, etc. In other ways, though, Zakaria is liberal: our diversity is our greatest strength, quality and universal education and health care are our biggest economic imperatives, nation building is out and international consensus is in. All together, it makes for an interesting and thought provoking brew.

Although the book is called the Post-American world, that title too seems designed to be provocative, for in fact, he expects America to stay #1 (measured by size of economy, what else?). On the whole, Zakaria is more optimistic about America than most Americans. What is the biggest threat we face? Our own dysfunctional politics!

A healthy portion of the book, at least half, is really not about America all, but rather about the two key emerging economies Zakaria identifies: China and India. The book is no less self-assured in this area and is highly informative about both of these countries (or, at least, of Zakaria's understanding of them). Frankly, I learned a lot from those parts of the book, and they were the highlight for me. Definitely recommended for readers who like this sort of thing.
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