In Search Of Common Sense

In just about a month from now the US will have a new President. He will bring change both foreign and domestic. Will he bring in common sense as well? We al hope so. Common sense has long been lacking in American policies. The last President with any serious  foreign common sense was  Nixon. Both men had other flaws of course but at least in this area I was impressed with them. Carter and Reagan? Not as bad as the last two Presidents but and they seemed focused on small parts of the world. They didn’t pay that much attention to south America or Africa. Not enough anyway. And forget India because most of our recent Presidents seem to have while in office. And in my mind the only President who really understood China was Nixon.

China and India are two of the main focuses of Fareed Zakaria‘s book The Post-American World. It’s loaded with common sense as well. I think there are two types of people who absolutely must read this book. People who are interested in politics/foreign affairs and people who are interested in business. Matt, if you haven’t read this book yet what’s wrong with you. 🙂 This book lays out not the decline of America but the rise of other parts of the world. It brings a lot of history into it as well.

I’m a strong believer that to understand the present one has to understand history as well.  This book taught me a lot of history of both China and India that I didn’t know before. Of course US schools are notoriously bad for covering history other than of the west which is probably why we screw up so badly in the middle east, the far east and Africa and South/Central America. We just have too few clues about what is going on and how things got the way they are. Common sense requires knowledge.

So what are my key take aways from this book? Close to home we really need to do two things. Get our energy house in order and get our schools in better shape. Some greater level of energy independence would greatly increase our future development options. China and India are going to require a lot more oil and if we keep our current level of dependence on it prices are going to get higher. Education is the key to innovation and we are going to need that. Really our education system is not as bad as a lot of the media would have us think – at least in the top students – but clearly we need to do better to stay competitive. We do a better job of teaching creative and critical thinking than the rest of the world but that edge is shrinking and we cannot afford that. And by golly we have to turn out more people who have a clue about the world outside our boarders.

Globally the growth of China and India can be a huge opportunity for us if we just grasp it correctly. And as long as we keep our innovation lead. I tell you if every America needed a program like FIRST its now.

But I fear that too much of America, including its politicians and business leaders, are focused on short term fixes, ignoring history and a quick buck over long term growth and stability. How else to explain the current financial melt down? And our failures in the middle east with regards to terror and stability. Of course we are not alone in this. In my opinion both sides in the Arab/Israeli conflict are lacking in common sense. The situation in Saudi Arabia is of dubious stability. And could Africa possibly in a bigger mess? Darfur in the Sudan, Mugabe in Zimbabwe and piracy off the coast of Somalia, just to name a few!  But we can’t count on the rest of the world to screw up worse than we do. Clearly it is time to really get smart about some things.

One Response to “In Search Of Common Sense”

  1. Matt says:

    Definitely. The problem right now, I think, is that we need a ton of short-term fixes, yet we also need to get things in order for the long-term. A frightening amount of nations seem to hate the US, our schools are appallingly bad, as is our healthcare system; our infrastructure really isn’t up to standards, and our economy is so bad that it’s bringing the rest of the world down with it. We absolutely, positively need to fix most everything, but it’s as if we’re trying to patch the holes in a leaking boat that’s also on fire. Time spent working on one thing will distract us from working on another dire emergency.

    I’ll have to check out that book in my free time… Although free time is a precious commodity these days.

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