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Jon_B
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The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

[ Edited ]

Let's use this thread to kick off our discussion of Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World, starting with the first two chapters.

 

These chapters broadly set the stage for the global shifts Zakaria discusses more specifically throughout the book, and give an overview of the trends of economic power shifting away from being centralized in the west to being spread across the planet.

 

Here's an interesting point to consider as we discuss these first two chapters:  Zakaria opens up his discussion of economic trends by asking what economic predictions  were made at the beginning of this decade and then declaring flatly that these forecasts were wrong.   Since Zakaria himself is in the business of making economic predictions - in fact thats the basis for much of this book - and since he wrote and published the book before the current economic crisis reached the critical point that it did in September - I think it is not only interesting but necessary to look at this book in the context of the global economic scene of this very moment. 

 

Zakaria spends some time establishing a disconnectedness between political shifting and economic shifting in the contemporary world.   Social and political turmoil in the 20th century, he claims, has not signifigantly stopped global economic growth over the last several decades.   Terrorist attacks such as 9/11 or the bombings in Bali, Madrid, and London have had economic consequences, but recovery has been faster each time.  And indeed, looking back on what he writes in the context of modern developments, the current economic issues don't seem to be related to any of the world's current wars or other socio-political conflicts - they are instead related to domestic economic policy. 

 

Do you agree that, in general, political power shifts and conflict don't have a dramatic effect on the global economy?  Do you think that this could change of larger scale conflicts were to emerge once more - such as potential conflicts between the US and Iran or Russia?

 

Also - while not related to economics, I felt Zakaria made a very interesting point about nature of media in the contemporary world and the changes in public perception of global conflict versus global peace.  Zakaria argues that in spite of the war on terror and several regional conflicts across the globe, today's world is to a large extent in one of it's most peaceful periods - historically speaking.  However, it seems as though the world is in a period of great turmoil because of the immediacy of media.  The war in Iraq is a contained conflict with comparatively low casualties but because reporters are now embedded among the troops and we see the action occur almost in real time and in a much more visceral manner.   Terrorist attacks around the world don't cause nearly as much loss of life or destruction of property as some of the large scale conflicts of past centuries - but because we hear about them as soon as they happen and see the damage with our own eyes and now can even talk directly to people who are there (instead of reading about it in the paper or hearing about it via word of mouth)  these events feel more immediate and traumatic for people thousands of miles away, on different continents.  

 

Do you agree with this notion that the world is in a compartive period of peace?  Do you agree that the nature of  modern communications exagerrates the sense of turmoil that the world is in?  

 

Lastly, let's take a look at some of Zakaria's discussion of American mentality in these two chapters.  Specifically, Zakaria states that some aspects of American political culture are leading to a degree of isolation from the rest of the world - isolation which, in the context of a changing global economy - can be dangerous.   For example, while the US leads the world in the war against Islamic fundamentalist terror, Zakaria claims that the American public is largely ignorant of some of the most important elements of the Islamic world and the fundamentalism that leads to terrorist groups.  That Americans imagine fundamentalist Islam as one cohesive movement  (and Islamic terrorists as one cohesive group) bent on global conquest, rather than realizing the intensely fractured, violently divisive nature of the Islamic community and the fact that many Islamic terrorist groups are as dedicated to the conflict between Sunni and Shia as they are to the conflict between Islam and the west.   Further, Zakaria claims that both major American political parties address global terrorism in a manner that promotes unilateralism and creates hostility among other nations.  

 

If you are an American, do you believe this is a fair assessment?  Do you think a more detailed understanding of the roots of modern Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is necessary for the American public in the future?   Do you agree that American politicians talk about the war on terror in a way that alienates even our allies and, if so, do you think that there are repercussions we will face?  If you are not an American, does Zakaria's description of the American public's perception match your own experiences?  How aware of these issues is the public in your own country? Do you feel that your own politicians' public attitudes towards the war on terror will have similar or different effects?

 

 

Message Edited by Jon_B on 11-03-2008 07:51 AM
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

[ Edited ]

Great questions to kick off this discussion Jon. I'll tackle them one at a time:

 

Do you agree that, in general, political power shifts and conflict don't have a dramatic effect on the global economy? I disagree, a small hiccup in one part of the world seems to trigger a ripple that circles the globe. The degree to which the blip has a dramatic effect on the global economy depends upon where the political power shift or conflict takes place.

 

Do you think that this could change if larger scale conflicts were to emerge once more - such as potential conflicts between the US and Iran or Russia? Yes, I think the global markets are always nervously watching these powerful nations and will react instantly.

 

Do you agree with this notion that the world is in a compartive period of peaceI agree, yet on the surface it does not feel like this is the case. The 24/7 news cycle blows small incidents out of proportion and makes them seem more catastropic than they really are.

 

Do you agree that the nature of  modern communications exagerrates the sense of turmoil that the world is in? ABSOLUTELY! Actually, I have been thinking about this a lot during the current economic crisis. Yes, the markets have had some breathtaking falls in the past weeks. Turn on the media and you hear "Chicken Little" warning us all that the sky is falling. Even on days where the market ends with slight gains--that is not reported as a good thing. I think that the 24/7 news cycle negatively impacts not only financial markets but also every other event that makes it to the top 3-4 stories of the day. Think about it, would Obama's "lipstick on a pig" remark have caused the same ruckus before the emergence of the cable news channels? I think not. I would much rather here a news anchor tell the audience something like, "Take a deep breath folks. Yes, the market took a dip today, but let's put that in context. Compared to how it has done in the past week...over the last month...over the past year.....the drop is marginal." Or, "we are seeing signs of civil unrest in XXXXX, let's look at the factors that maybe contributing to this situation and steps that are being taken to resolve the conflict..."

 

If you are an American, do you believe this is a fair assessment?  Do you think a more detailed understanding of the roots of modern Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is necessary for the American public in the futureAs an American I do think this is a fair assessment. The reason we made such a mess of the war in Iraq is our basic lack of understanding and lack of respectfor cultures that are different than our own. We Americans are an arrogant lot. It is that arrogance and myopic view that is the root of all disagreements that we have with other nations. We must try to understand the history of Islamic fundamentalism, not just for the future, but for now!

 

Do you agree that American politicians talk about the war on terror in a way that alienates even our allies and, if so, do you think that there are repercussions we will face? Some politicians do. I think their arrognat and antagonistic threats will certainly draw more ire. We have to understand that citizens of other nations are just as passionate about their beliefs as we are about ours. We must learn to be tolerant of differences and open to learning from others. The United States has a wonderful system of government, but we obviously do not have all of the answers. Our politicians should temper their political rhetoric.

 

 

Message Edited by Aunt_Beth_64 on 11-03-2008 01:53 PM
Message Edited by Aunt_Beth_64 on 11-03-2008 01:54 PM
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thewanderingjew
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2


Jon_B wrote:

Let's use this thread to kick off our discussion of Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World, starting with the first two chapters.

 

Do you agree that, in general, political power shifts and conflict don't have a dramatic effect on the global economy?  Do you think that this could change if larger scale conflicts were to emerge once more - such as potential conflicts between the US and Iran or Russia?

This might be a simplistic view, but I believe that the political power shift in the US, with the current election, will probably have a very dramatic effect on the global economy with or without conflicts between us and other nations. Our policies will likely change and, depending on how they do, will effect our position in the world and our economy. It remains to be seen how our allies will view our new President and what they will expect of him regarding their economic policies, going forward.
I am fairly certain that there would not be too many tears shed if the US were no longer the sole superpower, and indeed, Putin and Chavez etc. Have been shaking fists in anticipation of our country's loss of prestige and economic superiority.

Do you agree with this notion that the world is in a comparative period of peace? Do you agree that the nature of  modern communications exaggerates the sense of turmoil that the world is in?  

After 9/11, our period of peace ended, at least for me, I feel the undercurrent of the terrorist threat everyday.
Modern communications not only have the power to exaggerate the sense of turmoil, it has the power to brainwash us into believing the point of view they want to present, real or imagined. By selectively presenting information, whether or not it is factual, our media controls our thoughts. They no longer disseminate information but rather they disseminate opinion to further one or another political agenda. If the media sides with the government or the particular politician, everything presented will be positive, if not, we will be barraged with negative viewpoints, 24 hours a day. If that happens, we will believe it because no other viewpoint will be offered. Even a lie, told often enough, will seem like the truth. If we see the same event, 24 hours a day, over and over, we will either become hardened to it and less affected or terrified and unable to respond properly.

If you are an American, do you believe this is a fair assessment?  Do you think a more detailed understanding of the roots of modern Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is necessary for the American public in the future?   Do you agree that American politicians talk about the war on terror in a way that alienates even our allies and, if so, do you think that there are repercussions we will face?  If you are not an American, does Zakaria's description of the American public's perception match your own experiences?  How aware of these issues is the public in your own country? Do you feel that your own politicians' public attitudes towards the war on terror will have similar or different effects?

I think our Allies alienate themselves. They don't need help from us, but certainly, when some politicians, for the sake of their own advancement, betray their own country, with talk that can only turn them against us, what can our allies think but that we are weak and in disarray. 
Most countries will suffer the consequences of their weakness and lack of loyalty because our mutual enemies have one goal in mind and that is to defeat the Infidels. If we are not with them, then all of us are the Infidels. Our failure to understand this will be our downfall. This is a time for us to work together toward the defeat of our mutual enemies and achieve world peace, rather than work alone for our own particular goals. America has to stop being a bank book to the world, with no conditions and no expectations.
The US media has not presented the true story to American citizens because it has not served their political purpose. The population is, at the very least,  in denial and at the worst, very ignorant of the issues that face us with regard to Islamic Fundamentalists and their methods and goals. They have short memories and self serving needs.
Perhaps now that the election is over, the politicians will be forced to also realistically face the economic crises facing the US and deal with them more effectively, so we do not bring down the rest of the world economies with us because of our political agendas.
America is strong and resilient but our press has spread the "talking points" of the politicians they support rather than sing the praises of this great country, to inspire nationalism and respect for America, preferring instead to encourage Americans to think that they were in turmoil, economically, militarily and politically. 
I do agree with Zakaria's statement on page 32..."As the number of players--governmental and nongovernmental--increases and each one's power and confidence grows, the prospects for agreement and common action diminish.
twj

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2


Jon_B wrote:

L

 

Zakaria spends some time establishing a disconnectedness between political shifting and economic shifting in the contemporary world.   Social and political turmoil in the 20th century, he claims, has not signifigantly stopped global economic growth over the last several decades.   Terrorist attacks such as 9/11 or the bombings in Bali, Madrid, and London have had economic consequences, but recovery has been faster each time.  And indeed, looking back on what he writes in the context of modern developments, the current economic issues don't seem to be related to any of the world's current wars or other socio-political conflicts - they are instead related to domestic economic policy. 

 

Do you agree that, in general, political power shifts and conflict don't have a dramatic effect on the global economy?  Do you think that this could change of larger scale conflicts were to emerge once more - such as potential conflicts between the US and Iran or Russia?

I think it is depends on the financial cost of these conflicts. I don't think conflict between the US and Iran or Russia would have as much effect as conflict between the US and China or India.

 

Also - while not related to economics, I felt Zakaria made a very interesting point about nature of media in the contemporary world and the changes in public perception of global conflict versus global peace.  Zakaria argues that in spite of the war on terror and several regional conflicts across the globe, today's world is to a large extent in one of it's most peaceful periods - historically speaking.  However, it seems as though the world is in a period of great turmoil because of the immediacy of media.  The war in Iraq is a contained conflict with comparatively low casualties but because reporters are now embedded among the troops and we see the action occur almost in real time and in a much more visceral manner.   Terrorist attacks around the world don't cause nearly as much loss of life or destruction of property as some of the large scale conflicts of past centuries - but because we hear about them as soon as they happen and see the damage with our own eyes and now can even talk directly to people who are there (instead of reading about it in the paper or hearing about it via word of mouth)  these events feel more immediate and traumatic for people thousands of miles away, on different continents.  

 

Do you agree with this notion that the world is in a compartive period of peace?  Do you agree that the nature of  modern communications exagerrates the sense of turmoil that the world is in?  

I absolutely think that the media exaggerates what happens in the world. With so many 24 hour news channels, that's a lot of air time to fill, and they fill it with drama and controversy and repeatedly show horrific images. I know visual images have a much stronger impact on me that a story in print. During 9/11, I felt like I was there from watching tv. I could not have had the same feelings reading about it.

 

Lastly, let's take a look at some of Zakaria's discussion of American mentality in these two chapters.  Specifically, Zakaria states that some aspects of American political culture are leading to a degree of isolation from the rest of the world - isolation which, in the context of a changing global economy - can be dangerous.   For example, while the US leads the world in the war against Islamic fundamentalist terror, Zakaria claims that the American public is largely ignorant of some of the most important elements of the Islamic world and the fundamentalism that leads to terrorist groups.  That Americans imagine fundamentalist Islam as one cohesive movement  (and Islamic terrorists as one cohesive group) bent on global conquest, rather than realizing the intensely fractured, violently divisive nature of the Islamic community and the fact that many Islamic terrorist groups are as dedicated to the conflict between Sunni and Shia as they are to the conflict between Islam and the west.   Further, Zakaria claims that both major American political parties address global terrorism in a manner that promotes unilateralism and creates hostility among other nations.  

 

If you are an American, do you believe this is a fair assessment?  Do you think a more detailed understanding of the roots of modern Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is necessary for the American public in the future?   Do you agree that American politicians talk about the war on terror in a way that alienates even our allies and, if so, do you think that there are repercussions we will face?  If you are not an American, does Zakaria's description of the American public's perception match your own experiences?  How aware of these issues is the public in your own country? Do you feel that your own politicians' public attitudes towards the war on terror will have similar or different effects?

 

 I think it is fair to say that Americans have a limited understanding of the Islamic world. I think had our government showed this with the war in Iraq. And we still have no resolution. We should have learned from Britain's mistakes when they were colonizing the world and the impact that still has today. If we want to remain a superpower, I think we will have to redefine what that means. We are sometimes so caught up in our own patriotism, that we don't recognize patriotism or a sense of nationalism in other countries. We assume it's Anti-American and act accordingly. If we continue to act this way, we will make more enemies and this risks our relationships with our Allies. We need to be able to adapt if we want to stay strong. And I want my country to stay strong!

Message Edited by Jon_B on 11-03-2008 07:51 AM

 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Right on! I hope we  can continue to remain strong and still get along with the rest of the world, within America and without.

debbook wrote: (edited by twj)...

If we want to remain a superpower, I think we will have to redefine what that means. We are sometimes so caught up in our own patriotism, that we don't recognize patriotism or a sense of nationalism in other countries. We assume it's Anti-American and act accordingly. If we continue to act this way, we will make more enemies and this risks our relationships with our Allies. We need to be able to adapt if we want to stay strong. And I want my country to stay strong!

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Things are changing already!!

thewanderingjew wrote:
Right on! I hope we  can continue to remain strong and still get along with the rest of the world, within America and without.

debbook wrote: (edited by twj)...

If we want to remain a superpower, I think we will have to redefine what that means. We are sometimes so caught up in our own patriotism, that we don't recognize patriotism or a sense of nationalism in other countries. We assume it's Anti-American and act accordingly. If we continue to act this way, we will make more enemies and this risks our relationships with our Allies. We need to be able to adapt if we want to stay strong. And I want my country to stay strong!


 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2


thewanderingjew wrote:

Most countries will suffer the consequences of their weakness and lack of loyalty because our mutual enemies have one goal in mind and that is to defeat the Infidels. If we are not with them, then all of us are the Infidels. Our failure to understand this will be our downfall. This is a time for us to work together toward the defeat of our mutual enemies and achieve world peace, rather than work alone for our own particular goals. America has to stop being a bank book to the world, with no conditions and no expectations.
The US media has not presented the true story to American citizens because it has not served their political purpose. The population is, at the very least,  in denial and at the worst, very ignorant of the issues that face us with regard to Islamic Fundamentalists and their methods and goals. They have short memories and self serving needs.


 
Hi twj - thanks as always for your interesting perspective.
Could you elaborate a bit?  You say that the media is not telling us the true story - what exactly is the true story that you feel the media is not telling us, in the context of Islamic fundamentalism?    You mention the goals of Islamic fundamentalists - do you believe that Islamic fundamentalists all share the same goal?  In the context of this book, do you disagree with Zakaria when he states that Islamic fundamentalism is very much internally divided and does not have one unified goal?  
 

 

 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

[ Edited ]
Hi Jon,

Jon_B wrote:
Hi twj - thanks as always for your interesting perspective.
Could you elaborate a bit? You say that the media is not telling us the true story - what exactly is the true story that you feel the media is not telling us, in the context of Islamic fundamentalism?

I feel that the media is controlling the content of the information we receive, perhaps because of PC or because of a fear of inciting anger and a backlash. Therefore, we don't get to see a full picture of the purpose of Islamic fundamentalism or how the fundamentalists feel or behave toward us. For instance, after 9/11, their dancing in the streets was pretty much never shown again after it aired once by mistake. This doesn't mean that all of them advocate murdering Americans, but I have read that they learn in their Koran that they can wipe out the Infidel without guilt and with any means.

You mention the goals of Islamic fundamentalists - do you believe that Islamic fundamentalists all share the same goal?

I believe that their shared goal is to eliminate the Infidel and recreate the caliphate.

In the context of this book, do you disagree with Zakaria when he states that Islamic fundamentalism is very much internally divided and does not have one unified goal?

I haven't finished the book so I am not sure I can answer the question properly. However, while I think they may be divided on how to accomplish their goals, in that some are more radical than others, I think they are unified in what they think their goal is and that is what I stated in my previous answer, the return of the Caliphate.
twj

 

 


 

 

Message Edited by thewanderingjew on 11-07-2008 06:27 PM
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Thanks Deb - that article made me cry.  So pleased for y'all.  

 

 


debbook wrote:
Things are changing already!!
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Choisya
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Folks may like to watch the acclaimed BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares : The Rise of the Politics of Fear shown last year about the 'myths' surrounding Al Queda and Islamic fundamentalism. These views found favour in the UK and in mainland Europe where there is far less fear of fundamentalism than there appears to be in the US.  Perhaps, as WJ suggests, you are less well informed and see fewer documentaries etc. - fear thrives on ignorance.

 

I agree with Zakaria that Islam is far too divided to pose a real threat to world order.  The division between the Sunnis and Shias alone is a massive divide, as we have seen from the atrocities they regularly commit against one another.  They do not agree about the first Caliphates, let alone in establishing another one.  Then there are the Wahhabis, Osama Bin Laden's sect, mainly found in Saudi Arabia and North Pakistan, and Sufism, popular in Turkey and North Africa and found amongst the major 3 sects. There are also different Korans which say different things about jihad, infidels etc.  It is a very divided religion - my Muslim lodger gets exasperated because the different sects in his UK town cannot even agree upon the time when Ramadan starts and ends.   

 

There are also a growing number of ex-Muslims who have united to fight the excesses of their former religion.   My lodger belong to this organisation (is on their committee) and he particularly fights against the circumcision of women (infibulation) and sharia law

 

 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

I’m sorry that I’m coming late to this discussion.  I just today found some moments to read the first two chapters.

 

Jon wrote: Zakaria spends some time establishing a disconnectedness between political shifting and economic shifting in the contemporary world.   Social and political turmoil in the 20th century, he claims, has not signifigantly stopped global economic growth over the last several decades.   Terrorist attacks such as 9/11 or the bombings in Bali, Madrid, and London have had economic consequences, but recovery has been faster each time.  And indeed, looking back on what he writes in the context of modern developments, the current economic issues don't seem to be related to any of the world's current wars or other socio-political conflicts - they are instead related to domestic economic policy.

 

I thought this was an interesting point that Zakaria raises, but at least as far as the first two chapters are concerned, I’m a little confused, I think, in how he addresses the “disconnectedness” as you put it.  Essentially, he tells us that political turmoil, generally, contemporarily has little consequence on the global markets.  He gives the specific examples that you list (I was particularly intrigued by his demonstration that with each terrorist act in Western countries—U.S., Spain, England—the market response was less significant each time—as though we’ve grown increasingly desensitized to the terror that terrorism intends to cause).  He notes that presently, though we are bombarded visually with more acts of violence through our media, political turmoil is much less than it has been in the past.  But that doesn’t actually show a disconnect between our markets and political turmoil, it just shows the turmoil, itself, to be less active. 

 

Zakaria has written expansively on how liberty deeply depends on governments entering the global world, creating free markets protected by laws that empower the private sector free from excessive government interference.  I wonder if the increased emphasis on free markets, on markets removed from political pressure and control, has helped to remove the influence of political disasters on the markets themselves.  Could the fact that, globally, many states are working towards those very goals inform what appears to be the decreasing influence that political turmoil has on markets?  I think this is what Zakaria is getting at, but either he doesn’t draw the connection specifically, or I missed it.

 

So, for instance, Zakaria notes that “Turkey, which shares a border with Iraq, has averaged better than 7 percent annual growth since the war began” (8).  Can it be argued that perhaps Turkey’s market growth has not been negatively impacted by the political situation in Iraq, a bordering country, because as of the 80s it has limited its governmental control of the private sector, opening its markets, even engaging in a customs union with the EU as it awaits its full membership in the EU?  That is, because its market is more private and more global, it isn’t controlled by its regional political turmoil. 

 

Zakaria writes that in “vast, vigorous, and complex societies—the American economy is now $13 trillion—problems in a few places do not easily spill over” (17).  And it seems that with the influx of states adopting free markets with healthy private sectors that are increasingly globalized, the global market itself is becoming “vast, vigorous, and complex” making global political instability less of an issue for markets that largely act outside of political frameworks.  Zakaria mentions other historical periods where “political tumult and economic growth have come together”—the 1890s and 1900s and the 1950s and 60s—noting that the two periods had a common feature: “large countries were entering the world economy, increasing its size and changing its shape.  The expansion of the pie was so big that it overwhelmed day-to-day dislocations” (18).  And now the third expansion, the largest of the three, will result in 2 billion people living in the world of “markets and trade,” a global economy over $53 trillion dollars, and global trade increased by 133% (20).  Is part of Zakaria’s point that the pie has grown so big internationally that political strife in specific regions does little to affect the markets themselves—that because of its size, and because of its massive privatization, the markets are becoming essentially independent of global politics?  I think that’s what I’m reading into the chapter, but I’m not exactly sure that he draws the connection explicitly.  And, to be perfectly honest, I’m so ignorant about economics generally, that I could be drawing a totally daft conclusion.

 

Let me just end by saying that I know everyone is talking about Clinton, but I think Zakaria would be a really interesting choice for Secretary of State and might turn out to be absolutely fantastic in the position.  I’m just saying… 
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

[ Edited ]

RTA wrote: 

Zakaria has written expansively on how liberty deeply depends on governments entering the global world, creating free markets protected by laws that empower the private sector free from excessive government interference.  I wonder if the increased emphasis on free markets, on markets removed from political pressure and control, has helped to remove the influence of political disasters on the markets themselves.  Could the fact that, globally, many states are working towards those very goals inform what appears to be the decreasing influence that political turmoil has on markets? 

 

The 20thC in fact saw an increase in government interference in free market economies.  First in Russia by the communists, then in Germany by the Nazis and by various post-war European governments who introduced socialist economic measures like nationalisation, including the nationalisation of banks. The post-war European Union of 27 countries imposes a great deal of political pressure and regulation upon its members and its economy has been thriving in recent years, to the extent of the Euro rivalling the dollar on the stock markets.  Additionally, both China and India, the emerging 'Chindia', have a great deal of government economic control.  America may have bucked this trend but the recent economic crisis has perhaps shown that the American economy also needs more government regulation.  World leaders are at the moment arranging meetings to plan how to regulate their economies so as to avoid another crisis like the one we have just experienced.     

 

 

 

The concept of liberty (and equality) stemmed from the ideas of the Puritans who opposed the divine rule of kings and later from the Enlightenment which was first expounded by those who fought for the French Revolution, later taken up by the Founders of the US.  It preceded the global economy by several centuries and I do not believe that it drives it. 

 

 

 

I think two other things have had a significant influence on the markets - one is electronic communication and the movement of money by that means and the other is the increasing ability of the world's people to travel.  The world has become a much smaller place in the 20thC and any one of us can play the market or make a home on the other side of the world. Millions can look daily at the Dow, the Nikki and the Footse to decide where best to place their money and that money is very unlikely to remain their our own countries. That  IMO is the liberty which has affected economies.  

 

 

 

The opening up of the world by travel has also led to a generation of people who are more aware of the effects of their government's foreign and economic policies in the wider world and this too influences them and their governments' attitudes towards the global economy. Similarly the movement of millions of immigrants and asylum seekers has affected economies.  To give an example, 'remittances' by Asian and West Indian immigrants to their countries of origin affects both the UK and the receiving economies.    

 

 

 


RTA wrote:

I’m sorry that I’m coming late to this discussion.  I just today found some moments to read the first two chapters.

 

Jon wrote: Zakaria spends some time establishing a disconnectedness between political shifting and economic shifting in the contemporary world.   Social and political turmoil in the 20th century, he claims, has not signifigantly stopped global economic growth over the last several decades.   Terrorist attacks such as 9/11 or the bombings in Bali, Madrid, and London have had economic consequences, but recovery has been faster each time.  And indeed, looking back on what he writes in the context of modern developments, the current economic issues don't seem to be related to any of the world's current wars or other socio-political conflicts - they are instead related to domestic economic policy.

 

I thought this was an interesting point that Zakaria raises, but at least as far as the first two chapters are concerned, I’m a little confused, I think, in how he addresses the “disconnectedness” as you put it.  Essentially, he tells us that political turmoil, generally, contemporarily has little consequence on the global markets.  He gives the specific examples that you list (I was particularly intrigued by his demonstration that with each terrorist act in Western countries—U.S., Spain, England—the market response was less significant each time—as though we’ve grown increasingly desensitized to the terror that terrorism intends to cause).  He notes that presently, though we are bombarded visually with more acts of violence through our media, political turmoil is much less than it has been in the past.  But that doesn’t actually show a disconnect between our markets and political turmoil, it just shows the turmoil, itself, to be less active. 

 

Zakaria has written expansively on how liberty deeply depends on governments entering the global world, creating free markets protected by laws that empower the private sector free from excessive government interference.  I wonder if the increased emphasis on free markets, on markets removed from political pressure and control, has helped to remove the influence of political disasters on the markets themselves.  Could the fact that, globally, many states are working towards those very goals inform what appears to be the decreasing influence that political turmoil has on markets?  I think this is what Zakaria is getting at, but either he doesn’t draw the connection specifically, or I missed it.

 

So, for instance, Zakaria notes that “Turkey, which shares a border with Iraq, has averaged better than 7 percent annual growth since the war began” (8).  Can it be argued that perhaps Turkey’s market growth has not been negatively impacted by the political situation in Iraq, a bordering country, because as of the 80s it has limited its governmental control of the private sector, opening its markets, even engaging in a customs union with the EU as it awaits its full membership in the EU?  That is, because its market is more private and more global, it isn’t controlled by its regional political turmoil. 

 

Zakaria writes that in “vast, vigorous, and complex societies—the American economy is now $13 trillion—problems in a few places do not easily spill over” (17).  And it seems that with the influx of states adopting free markets with healthy private sectors that are increasingly globalized, the global market itself is becoming “vast, vigorous, and complex” making global political instability less of an issue for markets that largely act outside of political frameworks.  Zakaria mentions other historical periods where “political tumult and economic growth have come together”—the 1890s and 1900s and the 1950s and 60s—noting that the two periods had a common feature: “large countries were entering the world economy, increasing its size and changing its shape.  The expansion of the pie was so big that it overwhelmed day-to-day dislocations” (18).  And now the third expansion, the largest of the three, will result in 2 billion people living in the world of “markets and trade,” a global economy over $53 trillion dollars, and global trade increased by 133% (20).  Is part of Zakaria’s point that the pie has grown so big internationally that political strife in specific regions does little to affect the markets themselves—that because of its size, and because of its massive privatization, the markets are becoming essentially independent of global politics?  I think that’s what I’m reading into the chapter, but I’m not exactly sure that he draws the connection explicitly.  And, to be perfectly honest, I’m so ignorant about economics generally, that I could be drawing a totally daft conclusion.

 

Let me just end by saying that I know everyone is talking about Clinton, but I think Zakaria would be a really interesting choice for Secretary of State and might turn out to be absolutely fantastic in the position.  I’m just saying… 

 

Message Edited by Choisya on 11-09-2008 06:06 AM
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Choisya wrote: The 20thC in fact saw an increase in government interference in free market economies.  First in Russia by the communists, then in Germany by the Nazis and by various post-war European governments who introduced socialist economic measures like nationalisation, including the nationalisation of banks.

 

Are you offering that Russia’s and Germany’s interference with free markets was, in the long-term, successful?  Zakaria notes how in the 70s the world was essentially dominated by the “U.S.-led capitalist model on one end of the spectrum and the Soviet-led socialist model on the other,” noting that the “majority of the world” were “trying to carve a middle way between them” (22).  But, while the middle of the road countries stagnated, and countries like Japan, whose economies “had charted a quasi-capitalist course succeeded,” it became more evident that the Soviet model wasn’t working.  And, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, “with central planning totally discredited and one end of the political spectrum in ruins” the Soviet model was no longer an option (22).  As Zakaria notes there are sure to be lasting discussions about “various liberalization and market-ization plans,” but the general direction toward a capitalist model of some sort has not changed since the 80s.

 

Choisya wrote: The post-war European Union of 27 countries imposes a great deal of political pressure and regulation upon its members and its economy has been thriving in recent years, to the extent of the Euro rivalling the dollar on the stock markets.  Additionally, both China and India, the emerging 'Chindia', have a great deal of government economic control.  America may have bucked this trend but the recent economic crisis has perhaps shown that the American economy also needs more government regulation.  World leaders are at the moment arranging meetings to plan how to regulate their economies so as to avoid another crisis like the one we have just experienced.  

 

I’m not arguing that there aren’t necessary government regulation of all sorts—though, of course, the amount of government regulation varies from country to country.  Regulation and control are separate.  But, in these markets, the government regulation does not needlessly impinge on the market and the private sector, and we are speaking of predominantly free markets here—that is, the government is not controlling and/or dictating the prices of goods.  Unless European countries are controlling market prices at a rate of which I’m totally ignorant, and not largely relying on supply and demand to dictate the vast majority of their markets, they are all largely free markets with large private sectors; thus, they are all directed toward a capitalist model of some sort or another.

 

Choisya wrote: The concept of liberty (and equality) stemmed from the ideas of the Puritans who opposed the divine rule of kings and later from the Enlightenment which was first expounded by those who fought for the French Revolution, later taken up by the Founders of the US.  It preceded the global economy by several centuries and I do not believe that it drives it.

 

I didn’t write that liberty drives the global economy; in fact, quite the opposite.  I said that liberty "depends on" governments engaging the global economy.  Zakaria has argued that liberalism in struggling democracies of all sort is highly unlikely to happen until the countries' markets are stable and relatively prosperous—essentially that liberty depends on states opening up their markets to both the private sector and foreign trade.  His position is obviously a little more involved in that—for instance, he’s spoken of the necessity for fledgling democracies to build a GNP that doesn’t depend predominantly on natural resources, like oil.  But the gist is that until struggling nations build sound economies, with high per capita national income, he argues the likelihood that they will build some sort of lasting liberal democracy is slim.  And in countries without high per capita incomes, efforts at democracy are more likely to lead to illiberal democracies, if they lead to any sort of democracy at all.  The point being not that liberty drives the global economy, but that a strong global economy might drive liberty.

 

Choisya wrote: I think two other things have had a significant influence on the markets - one is electronic communication and the movement of money by that means…

 

Yes, Zakaria writes about the “free movement of capital” as he terms it.  But even this, according to Zakaria, is the result of less government restriction.  He notes that following WWII, most Western countries “had capital controls restricting the movement of currency in and out of their borders” (23).  However, as global trade increased in the 50s and 60s, “fixed rates created frictions and inefficiencies and prevented capital from being put to its best use” (23).  As a result most Western countries removed controls in the 70s and 80s and a “vast and ever-growing supply of capital” accumulating to “about $2 trillion a day” [emphasis original] resulted (23).  Interestingly, he talks of this capital exchange as “globalization’s celestial mechanism for discipline” that rewards some countries and punishes others for their successes and failures in the market.  As I recall, Thomas Friedman talks about this exchange of capital in a similar capacity in one of his book on globalization—I think it was The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

 

Choisya wrote: That  IMO is the liberty which has affected economies.

 

Just to make sure I’m absolutely clear, I never said that liberty drives economies. 
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

I thought it was interesting that Zakaria traced a path from a global economy that has seen an influx of independent states, willing to stretch their legs and have their voices heard.  And that, as a result, the United States will need to review its role in global politics.  It seems that the hegemonic relationship has outlived its usefulness.  I agree with Zakaria when he writes:

 

But the only way for the United States to deter rogue actions will be to create a broad, durable coalition against them.  And that will be possible only if Washington can show that it is willing to allow other countries to become stakeholders in the new order.  In today’s international order, progress means compromise (44).

 

Taking the onus off the U.S., alone, and relieving the international criticism to what has been increasingly unilateral actions by the U.S., a “durable coalition” will also go a long way in sharing both authority and responsibility with regard to international policy.  Such a coalition will create interested, invested stakeholders (as Zakaria terms it) in international affairs.  Companies sell stocks to their employees because they want their employees to have a material interest in the success of their companies.  In the same way, until countries have an interest in the success of international policy, how successful can we expect that policy to be? 

 

Zakaria writes about the increased need for legitimacy when dealing in global politics.  “As power becomes diversified and diffuse, legitimacy becomes even more important—because it is the only way to appeal to the disparate actors on the world stage” (39).  Thus, when considering Darfur, military action “would succeed only if sanctioned by the major powers as well as Sudan’s African neighbors” (39).  He goes on to assert that if the U.S. were to interfere in Darfur with only a small coalition, Sudan would likely claim “U.S. imperialism” to more than a few attentive ears.  But, at the same time, he recognizes that, because of their increased independence and economic power, states are less willing to “come together to solve common problems.”  So, as Zakaria himself asks, how do we work together to solve “common problems in an era of diffusion and decentralization” (45)?  It seems that Zakaria thinks the U.S. can still be a significant contributing force in such efforts.  But, in the concluding pages of the chapter, it also seems that, in order to be that force, the U.S. will seriously need to reconsider its role in the global world.  My question being, do you think it can and will make those efforts?
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Are you offering that Russia’s and Germany’s interference with free markets was, in the long-term, successful? 

 

No, not at all, I was just pointing out that there were more governments in the world who were not altogether capitalist and who use socialist intervention type policies, . As Zakaria says, the “majority of the world” were “trying to carve a middle way between them”, that is to have a mixed economy, which is not 'directed towards a capitalist model of some sort or another', quite the contrary.  

 

However, I must say at this point that I have not read Zakaria's book, only reviews and what has been written here so I cannot properly argue the points he makes. I can only comment on the generalities.  I also think that political and economic history is an extremely difficult topic to handle here and think perhaps that I should not have entered the fray:smileyvery-happy:.  

 

What I do reject is the cold-war interpretation of the world's economic policies.  The Soviet Union was not the only big player on the world's financial markets, the European Union, formed in the 1950s, has continued to grow both in strength and size and has been a rival to the US economy for many years.  Its governments have been mainly social democrat since 1945 and believe in mixed economies, not pure capitalist ones. Scandinavia too has  had progressive social-democrat government policies since 1945, many of which have been adopted by the EEC.  India, another large (and democratic) player since 1947 has also pursued similar policies.    

 

The Soviet economy was known to have failed by the 50s (they spent far far too much on defence) and only China (of the world players), under Mao Tse Chung, followed their example to any great extent and even so Mao changed the way in which communism worked economically as there were fewer five-year plans, more regionalisation and less centralisation.  The success that we see in China now shows a classic formula of socialism arising out of communism, which is what Marxist economists predicted.  Classic communist philosophy allows for this 'evolutionary' phenonomen and I feel that Zakaria is ignoring this and putting everything down to the success and imitation of pure capitalism and the influence of America (significant though that is).     

 

I do not agree that there has been a 'general direction toward a capitalist model of some sort since the 1980s'.  The laissez faire model of the US economy is essentially the model which the Victorians would have recognised of untrammelled free marketeering and one which began to be trimmed in Europe by various socialist-type measures in the 19C, led mainly by the trade unions. The mixed economies of Europe accord with Enlightenment philosophies of equality and how to achieve that equality',  some of which argued for redistribution of wealth by interventionism. Capitalism was seen by these philosophers as applying the Darwinian principle of the 'survival of the fittest' to economics and this idea did not find favour in 19C Europe, particularly amongst the rising trade union movements and the emerging 'labour' parties they subsequently supported.  Movements which found far less support in America.   

 

Given the recent economic crisis, I think we have yet to see whether capitalism, as we know it today, survives untrammelled in the US or whether they too will move towards the European/Scandinavian model of a mixed economy.  Whilst it remains the richest country in the world America will have dominance, whether it pursues pure capitalism or movese towards a more mixed economy but there are a lot of signs that China, combined with other Eastern economies will soon outstrip the US in wealth and so world dominance will shift.  The jury is still out but given the rise and fall of other empires in the world, there is every likelihood that the West, led by America, may soon come to the end of its hegemony. 

 

Another factor which led to America's success in the 20thC were the two world wars from which American made huge profits out of supplying arms to its allies.  It was the only country which ended these wars with a surplus and from WWI onwards it led to the economic dominance it holds today.  Was this therefore a triumph of capitalism or was it a result of age old European conflicts dragging the world into two wars?  Does Zakaria address this question?          

 

I am completely at odds with Friedmanite ideas about the free movement of capital and its benefits but this is far far too complex a subject to be argued here.  Nor do I agree that liberalism is tied up with economics.  I believe that education is the key to liberty - the free movement of ideas not money, the ability of the majority of a population to read. The ability of the English to read the Bible when it was translated from the Latin drove our quest for liberty and that of Europe. The 17C ideas expounded by Puritans during the Putney Debates that 'the poorest he that is in England hath a right to live as the greatest he' drove the English working man's fight for liberty and those of the French Revolution. The Puritans who sailed for America had imbibed the same ideas and were putting them into practice when they overthrew the rule of King George III.  None of these movements evolved because of participation in a global economy.  What we call the 'winning of hearts and minds' against fundamentalist Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan does not require a global economy either, it requires education, particularly the education of women who then educate their children. It perhaps requires the same missionary zeal shown by the Christians who educated Africans in former centuries but with a more ecumenical approach.

 

And yes there are various forms of price control in Europe and many attempts to control the market, much to the chagrin of the US.  European democracies withdrew controls because they became unable to control the free movement of capital due to the computerisation of the market but there are now attempts to find ways of re-controlling the market because of the economic collapse.         

 

 

 

 


RTA wrote:

 

Choisya wrote: The 20thC in fact saw an increase in government interference in free market economies.  First in Russia by the communists, then in Germany by the Nazis and by various post-war European governments who introduced socialist economic measures like nationalisation, including the nationalisation of banks.

 

Are you offering that Russia’s and Germany’s interference with free markets was, in the long-term, successful?  Zakaria notes how in the 70s the world was essentially dominated by the “U.S.-led capitalist model on one end of the spectrum and the Soviet-led socialist model on the other,” noting that the “majority of the world” were “trying to carve a middle way between them” (22).  But, while the middle of the road countries stagnated, and countries like Japan, whose economies “had charted a quasi-capitalist course succeeded,” it became more evident that the Soviet model wasn’t working.  And, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, “with central planning totally discredited and one end of the political spectrum in ruins” the Soviet model was no longer an option (22).  As Zakaria notes there are sure to be lasting discussions about “various liberalization and market-ization plans,” but the general direction toward a capitalist model of some sort has not changed since the 80s.

 

Choisya wrote: The post-war European Union of 27 countries imposes a great deal of political pressure and regulation upon its members and its economy has been thriving in recent years, to the extent of the Euro rivalling the dollar on the stock markets.  Additionally, both China and India, the emerging 'Chindia', have a great deal of government economic control.  America may have bucked this trend but the recent economic crisis has perhaps shown that the American economy also needs more government regulation.  World leaders are at the moment arranging meetings to plan how to regulate their economies so as to avoid another crisis like the one we have just experienced.  

 

I’m not arguing that there aren’t necessary government regulation of all sorts—though, of course, the amount of government regulation varies from country to country.  Regulation and control are separate.  But, in these markets, the government regulation does not needlessly impinge on the market and the private sector, and we are speaking of predominantly free markets here—that is, the government is not controlling and/or dictating the prices of goods.  Unless European countries are controlling market prices at a rate of which I’m totally ignorant, and not largely relying on supply and demand to dictate the vast majority of their markets, they are all largely free markets with large private sectors; thus, they are all directed toward a capitalist model of some sort or another.

 

Choisya wrote: The concept of liberty (and equality) stemmed from the ideas of the Puritans who opposed the divine rule of kings and later from the Enlightenment which was first expounded by those who fought for the French Revolution, later taken up by the Founders of the US.  It preceded the global economy by several centuries and I do not believe that it drives it.

 

I didn’t write that liberty drives the global economy; in fact, quite the opposite.  I said that liberty "depends on" governments engaging the global economy.  Zakaria has argued that liberalism in struggling democracies of all sort is highly unlikely to happen until the countries' markets are stable and relatively prosperous—essentially that liberty depends on states opening up their markets to both the private sector and foreign trade.  His position is obviously a little more involved in that—for instance, he’s spoken of the necessity for fledgling democracies to build a GNP that doesn’t depend predominantly on natural resources, like oil.  But the gist is that until struggling nations build sound economies, with high per capita national income, he argues the likelihood that they will build some sort of lasting liberal democracy is slim.  And in countries without high per capita incomes, efforts at democracy are more likely to lead to illiberal democracies, if they lead to any sort of democracy at all.  The point being not that liberty drives the global economy, but that a strong global economy might drive liberty.

 

Choisya wrote: I think two other things have had a significant influence on the markets - one is electronic communication and the movement of money by that means…

 

Yes, Zakaria writes about the “free movement of capital” as he terms it.  But even this, according to Zakaria, is the result of less government restriction.  He notes that following WWII, most Western countries “had capital controls restricting the movement of currency in and out of their borders” (23).  However, as global trade increased in the 50s and 60s, “fixed rates created frictions and inefficiencies and prevented capital from being put to its best use” (23).  As a result most Western countries removed controls in the 70s and 80s and a “vast and ever-growing supply of capital” accumulating to “about $2 trillion a day” [emphasis original] resulted (23).  Interestingly, he talks of this capital exchange as “globalization’s celestial mechanism for discipline” that rewards some countries and punishes others for their successes and failures in the market.  As I recall, Thomas Friedman talks about this exchange of capital in a similar capacity in one of his book on globalization—I think it was The Lexus and the Olive Tree.

 

 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Jon -- is there an equally reputable  book in the current publishing marketplace that you would deem to speak in contrast to The Post American World?  I am especially wondering for the first two chapters about reduced conflict (war) in the modern world and about the sustainability of economic directions.
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

Good question Peppermill,

 

I haven't read it yet, but The World Is Curved  by David Smick - based on the reviews I've read of it - would seem to speak in contrast to some of Zakaria's conclusions about current and future economic directions and policies.  Both Smick and Zakaria are, to some extent, supporters of free market capitalism but Zakaria tends to favor more mixed economies.  Again, I'm just going by reviews at this point though the book is in my list of things to read.

 

 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2

I wrote: Are you offering that Russia’s and Germany’s interference with free markets was, in the long-term, successful?

 

Choisya wrote: No, not at all, I was just pointing out that there were more governments in the world who were not altogether capitalist and who use socialist intervention type policies, .

 

Yes, and I’m pointing out that those socialist intervention type policies used by those two countries failed.  Which is also a minor point that Zakaria makes. 

 

Choisya wrote: I do not agree that there has been a 'general direction toward a capitalist model of some sort since the 1980s'.  The laissez faire model of the US economy is essentially the model which the Victorians would have recognised of untrammelled free marketeering and one which began to be trimmed in Europe by various socialist-type measures in the 19C, led mainly by the trade unions.

 

Well Zakaria didn’t say that the world has been moving in the general direction toward a “laissez faire” model, he said a capitalist model.  And I don’t consider laissez faire ideology and capitalism to be synonymous.  Likewise, I think it would be foolish to argue that the U.S. operates under a pure laissez faire system.  As much as some may like to argue otherwise, there is a ton of government intervention in the U.S. economy.  I’m unaware of any market that doesn’t have some sort of government oversight.  All capitalist markets are mixed to a certain degree—the prevailing question is to what degree states want government involvement in their market.  But it doesn’t mean that they are not capitalist models of one sort or other. 

 

Capitalism is simply an economic system wherein capital is owned privately, and that the production, distribution and pricing of goods are determined through competition in a free market.  I mean, unless you can convince me that a large part of Europe and its markets are not, in fact, privately owned; but, rather, are predominantly owned and controlled by the state, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that European markets aren’t based on a capitalist model.  Neither Zakaria nor I are claiming that any capitalist economy is purely capitalist, or should be.  But the fact that most modern markets value private property and free markets, with government intervention focused on regulation rather than control, demonstrates that the world is largely moving toward a capitalist-based economic model.

 

Choisya wrote: Given the recent economic crisis, I think we have yet to see whether capitalism, as we know it today, survives untrammelled in the US or whether they too will move towards the European/Scandinavian model of a mixed economy. 

 

Again, I don’t think anyone, except for those on the fringes, is arguing for a purely capitalist system.  All states will have to choose to what degree they want government involvement in their economy.  But the fact remains that those systems are capitalist-based—meaning that capital and the means of production are largely privately held and maintained—rather than socialist-based—meaning that capital and the means of production are controlled by the collective state.

 

Choisya, I was under the impression that your position essentially advocates social democracy.  Am I wrong there?  I thought social democracy was different than socialism in that it doesn’t aim to see the disintegration of capitalism.  Rather, I thought social democrats endeavored to reform capitalism by integrating programs (that would essentially be socialist in nature) in an effort to address injustices caused by capitalism.  I always assumed social democracy advocated strong government involvement, particularly in social services and social security; government regulation of private corporations in the interest of workers; fair trade, etc.  I was not under the impression that social democracy endeavored to move from a capitalist-based model where the majority of capital, and the means of production and distribution, is removed from private ownership.  Is that what social democrats want—to take capital from private ownership and place it into a collective state ownership?  Or, alternatively, was I wrong in presuming that you are a social democrat?

 

Choisya wrote: I am completely at odds with Friedmanite ideas about the free movement of capital and its benefits but this is far far too complex a subject to be argued here. 

 

I agree that it’s probably a topic for a different thread, because Friedman and Zakaria come at this from different angles.  But I disagree that the topic is “far far too complex a subject to be argued here.”  I’d be willing to do a reading of one of Friedman’s books if you’re interested in pursuing the topic. 

 

Choisya wrote: Nor do I agree that liberalism is tied up with economics.  I believe that education is the key to liberty - the free movement of ideas not money, the ability of the majority of a population to read.

 

So, let me ask you, how exactly do you intend to advocate that “free movement of ideas” in countries where people are literally battling over food and water?  How do you expect liberty to be embraced in countries with poverty at unimaginable rates?  How do you think “education” will work in a population that eats little more than a couple hundred calories a day?  It’s not that the global market brings liberalism.  It’s that a state’s participation in the global market raises its chances of elevating per capita income, giving people the opportunity to care about things other than physical survival, such as democracy and liberty.

 

I hope you might find the time and opportunity to read the book—though I imagine it’s probably not as readily available in your libraries—because I think it might assist us to better discuss these topics.  Or, in the alternative, if you wanted to suggest an additional book.

 

BTW, to those reading the book, sorry for the lack of textual references in this post, in what is meant as a book discussion.  I forgot my book at my office and am working from memory tonight. 

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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2 - a Digression.

[ Edited ]

The Soviet economy was not interventionist, it was full state control and I don't think even a die hard communist would need to be told that it failed although they might say that it was never given a chance, considering the efforts that were taken to destabilise the communist regime from the outset.  Communism, as an ideology, was not intended to stand still and it was hoped that it would develop into a less 'statist' form of socialism, even eventually into anarchie or libertarianism when the proletariat were sufficiently educated.  It has never been practised in its ideal form though many Utopian treatises have been written based upon those ideals, Walden for instance.   

 

Hitler's economy might not have failed if he had not been so foolish as to start a war. His 'New Deal' for the Germans was quite successful. but we do not know how it would have ended.  FDR's did quite well.

 

What you (and Zakaria) appear to be doing is to assume that there are only two viable economic models in the world - a capitalist model and a communist one.  I am trying to point out that there is also a Mixed Economy model, developed by 20thC European economists, which believes in much more state intervention/regulation/control than is practised in the US.  Again, no one would argue that America has a pure capitalist system (is there a pure anything??)  But the mixed economy models of Europe are substantially different both in ethos and practice.  They stem from a pure capitalist model but differ significantly from the more laissez faire model practised in America, which although not pure laissez faire is a lot nearer to it than any European model.    

 

There are many definitions of socialism, one of which does not believe in revolution to attain it, another, more usually defined nowadays as communism, does. Communism believes in full state control of all goods and services, socialists do not.   I am a Fabian socialist and believe that socialist policies should be introduced gradually and democratically.  I believe in greater state involvement than do many social democrats. For instance, to achieve a redistribution of wealth I would like to see the nationalisation or part nationalisation of certain essential industries and services like gas, electricity, water, transport and in the state provision of education, health services and part state provision of housing.  I would like to see, say, 60% state ownership of these things so that government and/or local government retains control and accountabilty.  I believe that capitalism needs curbing and agree with Marx that, untrammelled, it 'has within it the seeds of its own destruction' and that it will ultimately lead to the disintegration of countries' economic systems and the lives of workers.  We have just seen a mini example of this in action. 

 

Social democrats, especially those in mainland Europe, believe in less state control than I do.  The Scandinavian model comes nearer to my idea of socialism than the European model, which has not been practised since the Attlee government fell in 1951.  The French under de Gaulle had a form of socialism (Dirigisme) similar to Attlee's. 

 

I am, however, aware that my ideas are also Utopian and as can be seen on these threads, go against the grain of Americans in particular, although they find quite a lot of favour in the UK and France.  I do not want to argue about them and only wish to point out that there are differences in European approaches to the economy which are as successful as the American model if one does not judge an economy entirely on wealth production but also on other cultural factors - like preferring to pay more taxes and to live less luxuriously so that everyone can benefit from a National Health Service and other forms of social welfare.     

 

The now defunct Clause 4 on Labour Party membership cards sums up my beliefs:-

 

'To secure for the producers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry, and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible, upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry and service.'

 

The adoption of Clause Four in 1918 fitted a pattern that long characterised the Labour Party. That pattern is to try to marry class and nation. Labour depended on workers' votes and the trade unions: it was a party of the working class. At the same time, its aspiration to run the state machine bound it to the dominant interests of the state: it was therefore also a capitalist workers' party, like it or not.  The adoption of mixed economy economics as propounded by Crosland and others in the 1960s was an attempt to 'water down' the effects of capitalism upon the workers at a time when it could clearly be seen that the communist model could not work alongside a capitalist one.  It also included a large degree of Keynsian economics such as those which underpinned Hitler's and FDR's New Deal.

 

But this is not discussing Zakaria which folks want to do here.  I do not think it is possible to discuss Friedman or any other economist here because I think such exchanges should include a great deal of background reading and prior knowledge.  My BA and MA covered Politics, Social Science and Economics (PSE), with a digression into Comparative Religion and I attended one of the most left wing universities in the UK - the London School of Economics, whose founders also founded the Fabian Society.  There, I have given everyone here enough ammunition to hit me over the head forever!:smileysurprised:.   B&N will probably ban me after receiving a raft of complaints that a 'commie' has invaded their boards!  

 

 

Message Edited by Choisya on 11-10-2008 10:57 PM
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Re: The Post-American World - Chapters 1 and 2 - a Digression.

Choisya wrote: What you (and Zakaria) appear to be doing is to assume that there are only two viable economic models in the world - a capitalist model and a communist one. 

 

No, let me assure you that neither of us are doing that.  I’ve spoken of capitalist-based models.  That is that most markets—including the U.S.—are mixed to one degree or another, but that they all have a capitalist base.  That is their capital is privately owned.  Again, are you claiming that the capital in Europe is not privately owned?  What you seem to be doing, Choisya, is attaching all sorts of meaning onto the term capitalist-based.  As though you think capitalism to be a dirty word—very similar to the way you think Americans shun socialist ideology.  Capitalism is simply the private ownership of capital.  A capitalist-based system is any type of economic system where capital is largely privately owned.  Is capital not largely privately owned in Europe? 

 

Either way, I urge you to not take anything I’ve written as Zakaria’s argument because, from what you’ve written thus far, I’ve done a deplorable job in trying to make you understand his position.  At this point I think I’ll stop trying to have a conversation about a book, with someone who hasn’t read the book.  It was irresponsible of me to try.  I wouldn’t mind continuing a general discussion elsewhere, if you want to start a different thread.