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The Big Answer

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Global Paradox

a book by John Naisbitt

(our site's book review)

This 1994 book is a fine follow-up to his best-selling Megatrends. It’s theme is: “the bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players.” It encourages many things, such as the adoption of new-paradigm thinking (the ecological-holistic rather than the mechanistic-reductionistic, although he doesn’t use these terms), small and efficient units being what makes bigger units that contain them function effectively, the adoption of empowering communications technology, the shift from vertical to horizontal, the shift from state to individual, the shift from hierarchy to networking, the shift from place to virtuality, and the shift from the left-right choice to the global-tribal choice, but the latter isn’t either/or but both/and, and you must shift back and forth constantly between the two contexts in order to thrive in the new world order.

Idea leading to paradigm shift
Idea leading to paradigm shift

Naisbitt looks at the obsolescence of big government (analogous to a mainframe computer) compared to empowered individuals (analogous to personal computers) by saying: “Explosive growth follows when millions of people are liberated to contribute ideas and energy, rather than having everything come from a mainframe government.” This puts social engineering on the scrap heap as well. Politics is transmuting also: “The idea that the central government—one huge mainframe—is the most important part of governance is obsolete, which means the end of politics as we have known it, as we shift from representative democracy to free-market democracy. . . . Politics will reemerge as the engine of individualism.”

One wonders, when Naisbitt says that in the future economic sanctions will be an effective deterrent to human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing, if he thinks Saddam Hussein was an anomaly with his constant misbehavior in the face of serious sanctions. Or Iran, or North Korea, or Syria, or Putin's Ukraine interference. All got sanctions. But all just laughed.

We'll not be surprised if Iraqis start seeing billboards with 'Miss me yet?' under Saddam's picture!
We'll not be surprised if Iraqis start seeing billboards with 'Miss me yet?' under Saddam's picture!

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un never even blinked after sanctions
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un never even blinked after sanctions

Naisbitt looks at market values invading China: “The entrepreneurs pretend they are doing it for the greater good; the Party pretends the country is still Communist. . . . The larger the Chinese economy becomes, the smaller and more powerful the parts [become].” The whole trade situation between the U.S. and China is very win-win. They get money and raise their living standards; we get a diverse supply of goods at good prices, keeping our living standard up Of course, China is the U.S.'s largest foreign creditor, owing more than $1 trillion of U.S. debt in 2014. We send them $ for goods, and they buy U.S. Treasury bonds and securities with it, which are basically I.O.U.s that say we owe them $—lots of it.


Naisbitt looks at the mess in Russia and says that since the only market that works in Russia is the black market: “A viable de facto strategy is to let the black market take over the whole market; then market forces over time will shape and refine it.” Russia has become a kleptocracy—they have become a political system ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt. Russians, in a decade or so, might get frustrated at the political stagnation and lost economic opportunities. More than a million Russians have fled the country in recent years, many of them educated middle-class. They are very turned off by the rampant graft and political bigwigs who are getting filthy rich while the people suffer. (Kind of reminds one of the rampant greed and corruption and Corporatocracy bigwigs getting filthy rich while the people suffer—this is going on in a very different country. Where? Here!) See Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite.

Naisbitt looks at the European EC and notes that while other countries were trimming the fat, they were spending extraordinary sums of money to sustain their generous welfare programs. “If Europe does not reform its welfare-burdened economy in an increasingly competitive world, it is in danger of becoming a history theme park for well-off customers from Asia and the Americas.” These programs are serving their citizens much better than anything in the U.S. is serving U.S. citizenry, however.

If Europe does not reform its welfare-burdened economy, it is in danger of becoming a history theme park
If Europe does not reform its welfare-burdened economy, it is in danger of becoming a history theme park

“The global economy is not a zero-sum game, but an expanding universe,” according to Naisbitt. We all win when everyone works hard and is productive. It’s not necessary for some countries to lose in order that others may win.

Naisbitt sees Europe as a basket case and advises the U.S. to give up the Europe-Japan-U.S. triangle in favor of a China-Japan-Americas (North/Central/South) alliance. He sees the possibilities for individuals and families as well as companies and institutions as being far greater in the 21st century than they have ever been before.