Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Post American World and the Future of Freedom

I have a book on hold at the local library - The Post American World and the Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria. I'm not holding my breath, as it appears 27 other people have put the book on hold too! If the author's talk at the Commonwealth Club of California is anything to go by, it will be a very interesting read. He speaks of Americans' lack of awareness of what is going on outside their borders, and of how the balance of economic power has shifted over the past few years. He is extremely articulate and to summarize his talk here would not do him justice. Here's an extract from his book:

Look around. The world's tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year. America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping. The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn't make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world's ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

These factoids reflect a seismic shift in power and attitudes. It is one that I sense when I travel around the world. In America, we are still debating the nature and extent of anti-Americanism. One side says that the problem is real and worrying and that we must woo the world back. The other says this is the inevitable price of power and that many of these countries are envious—and vaguely French—so we can safely ignore their griping. But while we argue over why they hate us, "they" have moved on, and are now far more interested in other, more dynamic parts of the globe. The world has shifted from anti-Americanism to post-Americanism.

If the topic is at all interesting to you, you can buy or borrow his book, read an excerpt online or download the free podcast of his talk at the Commonwealth Club here.

Apparently Zakaria has a show on CNN on Sundays and I think I might make the effort to watch it.


ADDY said...

And Britain is turning into a third-world country and trailing way behind. A bit scary.

Janet said...

That sounds like a fascinating book. But one only has to look at the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and all other empires in between, to know that what goes around comes around.

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