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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

The Post-American World - Fareed Zakaria The book title suggests that perhaps it's predicting the demise of America. But instead the book is generally optimistic about the future and predicts that other nations will rise in importance relative to the U.S. However, America will continue to be a global player on the international scene.

This book was published in May 2008 prior to the recent meltdown in the financial world. I found myself speculating about what the author would say differently if the book were written after the current flury of bailouts and the collapse of Lehman Brothers. On page 205 the author says, "New derivatives based on underlying instruments like stock or interst-rate payment are increasingly important ..." He goes on to say that the London financial exchanges sell more derivatives than the New York exchanges with the implication that this is an indication of the strength of the London markets. In think the author would want to word things a little differently today if he had a chance. But still it is my guess that the author would view current conditions as part of expected cycles in the world's economy.

The book covers some of the same ground covered by Friedman's The World Is Flat. Both books spend considerable time discussing the rise of China and India on the world scene. Zakaria's writing is perhaps a bit more subduded and business like than Friedman's book (and perhaps less interesting to read as a result).

I found the parts of the book that are critical of the United States to be the most interesting parts. The following is a quotation from the book I found interesting: "More people will graduate in the United States in 2006 with sports-exercise degrees than electrical-engineering degrees," says General Electric's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt. "So if we want to be the massage capital of the world, we're well on our way."

The book maintains that the American educational sytem is better than many think. Worldwide testing always shows the students from Singapore with top scores in math and science. So Americans might conclude that our schools should be more like theirs. It is interesting to see from the following quotation from the book what the educational officials in Singapore think of the American educational system: "Tharman Shanmugaratnam, until recently Singapore's minister of education, explains the difference between his country's system and America's. "We both have meritocracies," Shanmugaratnam says. "Yours is a talent meritocracy, ours is an exam meritocracy. We know how to train people to take exams. You know how to use people's talents to the fullest. Both are important, but there are some parts of the intellect that we are not able to test well - like creativity, curiosity, a sense of adventure, ambition. Most of all, America has a culture of learning that challenges conventional wisdom, even if it means challenging authority. These are the areas where Singapore must learn from America.""