Fareed Zakaria has long argued that it is not so much that the West is in decline, as that the Rest are in extraordinary ascent. His argument in The Post-American World
is essentially that the West has not failed, but that it has reached a plateau. Multi-polarity, as the Rest catch up, will be the coming order. Albeit, Zakaria does save some sharp criticisms for what he considers the highly dysfunctional nature of the American political system, suggesting that the "the rise of the Rest" is facilitated partly by lost opportunities afforded by archaic administrations in the global north. All this will be bad news for America, but it could also be great news for global poverty. Spreading around the extreme concentration of wealth and power that has been endemic of the international system in the last decades might make a better justice. America has slowly bled that wealth and power of the last generation to the so-called BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India and China.And at least a few pundits are saying that BRIC shift is good news for poverty
. Optimistic estimates say that by 2022 those living in poverty will be a minority for the first time. As the middle class dwindles in the West, it's exploding abroad. How will international relations be transformed by the injection of hundreds of millions of Indian, Brazilian, and Chinese families into a global middle class? Will middle class itself come to take on a new meaning, and what will be the implications for the often less than desirable governance conditions of these countries? But most intriguingly, these shifts will give a good grilling to the economic orthodoxy that wealth produces well-adjusted, democratic, and tolerant citizens. Will a wider distribution of wealth inspire revolutions in culture and politics in otherwise marginally tyrannical regimes, like Russia and China? People like Zakaria and Francis Fukuyama argue that democracy can only be sustained in countries with a per capita GDP threshold of around $6000. It's hard to overestimate the importance of a stable economy, and the underlying social architecture that sustains it (just laws, property rights etc), but whether a wealthier world will be a more democratic, peaceful, and just one is another matter. Where rising middle class BRICs are spending their money and priorities today may give us a window into the world of tomorrow.