society en-US Book Review: The Post American World <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-the-post-american-world" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Cover of The Post American World" title="Cover of The Post American World" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="105" height="160" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=";tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=039306235X"><cite>The Post-American World</cite></a> by Fareed Zakaria.</p> <p>Is there a link between having a modern society and having a western society?&nbsp; The vast economic and military power of the United States (and before that, the United Kingdom) has made the two seem more connected than they actually may be.</p> <p>Zakaria's new book is about what he calls &quot;the rise of the rest&quot;:&nbsp; non-Western countries becoming significant economic and military players.&nbsp; This change doesn't imply any decline in US power; rather, it's an entirely predictable result of other countries choosing to modernize their economies, and become thereby more powerful.</p> <p>China and India each gets its own chapter, and Zakaria provides a broad and deep exploration of the very different trajectory each is taking toward modernization.&nbsp; Those chapters are excellent, but much of their excellence comes from their richness.&nbsp; Any summary would lose exactly what's best about them, so I won't try.</p> <p>The US has unmatched--probably unmatchable--economic and military power.&nbsp; But as the past 8 years have shown, turning that into real benefits is not necessarily easy or straightforward.&nbsp; Perhaps the best part of the book is the observation that the best strategy for the United States is exactly the strategy that it had always followed until the past few years:</p> <blockquote><p>America was the most powerful country in the world when it proposed the creation of the League of Nations . . . .&nbsp; It was the dominant power at the end of World War II, when it founded the United Nations, created the Bretton Woods system of international economic cooperations, and launched the world's key international organizations. . . .&nbsp; For most of the twentieth century, in other words, American embraced international cooperation not out of fear and vulnerability but out of confidence and strength. </p></blockquote> <p> He also articulates well one of my own biggest concerns about the United States--that we've let ourselves be terrorized.&nbsp; (The things Americans choose to fear always puzzle me.&nbsp; We tolerate over 40,000 traffic-related deaths every year.&nbsp; Dangers smaller than that--terrorist attacks, for example, or contaminated food--deserve some attention, but what they get is, to my mind, wildly inappropriate.)</p> <p>The biggest flaw in this book is that Zakaria seems to have no perception of the way resource limits will affect the future. &nbsp;</p> <p>He talks about natural resources, but always either in terms of their abundance or else in terms of how economic and military power influences how they're divided up.&nbsp; There's no mention of peak oil, and no discussion of the impact that an actual decline in the quantity of oil brought to market might have. &nbsp;</p> <p>Environmental limits get a couple of paragraphs--he mentions that there are already on the books <em>just in China and India </em>plans to build coal-fired power plants that will release five times the total savings in carbon emissions proposed in the Kyoto accords--but that observation doesn't seem to inform the rest of his discussion at all.</p> <p>(He does have some good observations on the effects that limitations of the supply of clean water might have, but that just makes me miss all the more the things he could have said about oil.)</p> <p>To the extent that <strong>people</strong> are what's going to influence the future, this is the best examination I've seen this year into what the future is going to look like, and has the best suggestions I've seen for dealing with it.&nbsp; (Admittedly, suggestions for public policy--there's little about what individuals can do to take advantage of the changes that &quot;the rise of the rest&quot; is going to produce.)&nbsp; If that's of interest to you, <em><a href=";tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=039306235X">The Post-American World</a></em> deserves your attention.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Book Review: The Post American World " rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance american book review books China india review society Wed, 02 Jul 2008 15:14:48 +0000 Philip Brewer 2214 at Should You be Ashamed to be on Public Assistance? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/should-you-be-ashamed-to-be-on-public-assistance" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="169" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><a href="/being-poor-without-being-pitiful">Growing up in a poor home</a>, I had no idea what food stamps were.<span> </span>The food bank was rarely utilized for fear of being judged as a drain on society.<span> </span>Everyone in our community “knew” that a real man couldn’t let his kids eat food that had been purchased by the U.S. government.<span> </span>Similarly, welfare programs were for folks who were lazy, stupid, or both.<span> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Our family, and other local farmers, had no problem using agricultural subsidies, however.<span> </span>As a society, we grew up with the dream of getting college degrees, and we took full advantage of Pell grants and government-funded scholarships.<span> </span>Many of the activities we participated in ran on grants and endowments from our local and state governments.<span> </span>We felt secure in a future of social security checks and a competent Medicare program. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>What exactly is wrong with America?</strong><span><strong> </strong> </span>Having been on both ends of the “hand-out” fence, I can tell you that it’s a conundrum I haven’t quite figured out.<span> </span>I worked as a clerk in our local Social Service office the same year we applied for assistance for the first time.<span> </span>I was shocked to hear even the workers grumble with disgust at serving the needy community.<span> </span>I was never more relieved than the day we reported to our caseworker that my husband had gotten a great job, and we would no longer be needing assistance.<span> </span>Getting a little help with food and heat had been perfectly legal, but somehow I felt so guilty. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Government programs are directly used by the majority of Americans, and I can almost guarantee you that you will use a Social Service at least once before you die. These programs are funded by each and every working American.<span> </span>They are designed to be used by by those same people -- just like Pell Grants, state-funded unemployment, and that tax rebate you may be receiving later in the year. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>So what’s with the stigma</strong> of food stamps, welfare, and other programs commonly associated with the lowest of the low?<span> </span>Our federal government wants us to use these services.<span> </span>So much, in fact, that it is considering <a href="">renaming the food stamp program</a> the “Food and Nutrition Program” to relieve some of the shame that accompanies participation. <span> </span><a href="">College students are being encouraged</a> to qualify for food assistance as an alternative to an often inadequate diet. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Sure, there are abuses to the programs, folks who just don’t try, and a barrage of cases where it just doesn’t help much anyway. There are also families who have been helped – families who needed a little more time to get on their feet.<span> </span>These people used their resources to the best of their abilities.<span> </span>They cut coupons, shopped sale ads, and managed portions of healthy foods to be sure that their “food stamps” were put to the best use.<span> </span>They went to bed with full stomachs and hope for tomorrow.<span> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Looking back on my childhood, I wish things could have been a little different.<span> </span>Maybe, if we had access to the slick-looking debit cards that the government currently provides food program participants (instead of the awful perforated coupons used back then), there wouldn’t have been as much shame.<span> </span>Perhaps if people had been more honest about the cycle of money in this country, we all could have seen it as an opportunity and not a “hand-out.”<span> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Let’s be honest</strong> about our world and avoid judging others.<span> </span>I’ve been there, and it’s not that bad!<span> </span>If you are having a hard time providing the basics for your family (including food, shelter, heat, or medical care), there is help.<span> </span>Visit <a href=""></a> for a complete listing of all the programs available in your state.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Should You be Ashamed to be on Public Assistance?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Linsey Knerl</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Personal Finance Consumer Affairs assistance government social services society Mon, 04 Feb 2008 03:13:34 +0000 Linsey Knerl 1743 at