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Despite Doom and Gloom, Three Forces Offer Cause for Optimism

By Nancy Davis  6/16/2013
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CHICAGO—“We are building a new global economy, although it is difficult to see and understand because it is different than anything we have had before,” said journalist Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's international affairs program, at the opening session of the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Annual Conference & Exposition on June 16, 2013.

“How gloomy everyone is,” reflected the editor at large for Time magazine and author of The Post-American World: Release 2.0 (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012). “Compared to Europe, the U.S. looks cheerful. Everyone thinks the euro is going to collapse. In the past few years the great hopes were in China and Brazil. But in China people are worried about a great economic shift, and the Brazilian economy has slowed to 1 percent growth. Everywhere, there is a feeling that something is not right.”

Still, there is cause for optimism, insisted Zakaria, who came to the United States from his native India as a student in the 1970s, when the U.S. was also gloomy—facing stagflation, a “humiliating” withdrawal from Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. “There was an air of malaise, but in the midst of deep recession a funny thing happened: The economy started gathering steam. One year later, we were in the midst of a great boom.”

As Zakaria began reviewing America’s subsequent recessions and growth cycles, he noted that “There is always recovery. It is sometimes difficult to see when we’re in the midst of it.”

In the past, he said, only a handful of countries could participate in an open global system, and the rest were locked out because of socialism and other factors. Today, however, political stability after the Cold War and an open market system that attracts private capital stimulate economic growth worldwide. Meanwhile, “A great information convergence is coursing through our lives.”

And the technology “revolution is just beginning,” he observed. “True connectivity has just started, as the difference between a phone and a computer has collapsed.”

Three economic forces—political stability, economic stability and technological connectivity—“are having an extraordinary effect,” the journalist said. For example, in 1990 just 30 countries were growing at 3 percent a year; now, “dozens and dozens of countries have found a way to play, raise the living standards of their people and grow their economies. That’s the big story of our time.”

While terrorism and instability tend to grab headlines and our attention, the real news is how emerging economies are changing the world and providing hope for the future.

“When historians write about these times they will give al-Qaida a chapter, but the big story is about the extraordinary transformation around the world … as the other 90 percent of humanity who were locked out for hundreds of years found a way to express themselves politically, economically and culturally.

By Nancy Davis, editor of HR Magazine.

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