That Used to be Us and the Rise of the Rest

Thomas L Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum have co-authored

“That Used to Be Us : What Went Wrong with America?  And How it Can Come Back”The words are a lift from a Barack Obama quote about Asia’s advancing techno-industrial might –

“We just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth; that used to be us.

Whatever happened to the American dream?  Well America the superpower isn’t super anymore.  China has seized the mantle of hypercompetitive hypercompetence that was once ours.

Such information technology advances as social media and cloud computing have only further levelled the playing field.  The Developing Economies are equipped with the tools to vie for the jobs and riches that Americans considered theirs

Thomas Friedman interview – The world is hyperconnected

The book describes a catalogue of dismay that must be tackled under four headings:

  1. First, a profound, discombobulating lack of focus – purpose lost since the cold war was won. No threat, no concentration.
  2. Second, a chronic failure to address obvious problems – education, energy shortages, climate change.
  3. Third, the abandonment of the formula, built on investment, industry and innovation, that made America strong.
  4. And, last, a bitter, intransigent hostility that has soured any attempt at consensus building.

Make progress under all those headings and perhaps the dream can live again.

Globalisation means that there aren’t any no-brainer white-collar or blue-collar jobs around any longer. Millions of jobs have vanished through this downturn and they’re not coming back. You can, and in fact do have, many in manufacturing doing well, cranking out profits again. What you don’t have is the employment that used to go with recovery.

New jobs can only come from new enterprises, new ideas, new creativity. The old routines have lost relevance.

This means not just transforming school education but finding ways of rescuing the millions of adults washed up on the cape of no hope by digital change.

As Friedman and Mandelbaum fundamentally argue, we haven’t begun to wake up yet.

“Learning, working, producing, relearning and innovating

 twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as often and twice as much”

The time is ripe for big, concrete ideas to renew America

Post American World and the Rise of the Rest – Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria argues that we are now living a power shift, which he calls “the rise of the rest“, as countries all over the world have adopted originally Western modern thinking with the result that they are experiencing unprecedented economic growth.

The real problem, Zakaria argues, is the rise of China, trailed by India. China’s is indeed the most incredible success story in history — a tale of almost 30 years of growth in the 7-to-10-percent range that seems to defy the laws of economic gravity.

Zakaria also makes the point that tying healthcare to employment tends to tie US people to their jobs and lessen 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 than it would have been under a more fluid labor market.

When the US was the overwhelming power, everyone else had to learn American culture.  Asian countries have assimilated a great deal of Western culture  (casinos, infotainment, fashion etc.)

The big change in the 21st century is now the US yields power and influence to others and has to learn everyone else’s culture. It needs to share power, build coalitions, create legitimacy, in order to lead and prosper. It has to stop being the Voice of Authority and learn to Curate a Global Conversation-or many of them.


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