Book of the Week: The Leading Indicators
March 18th, 2014
10:59 PM ET

Book of the Week: The Leading Indicators

By John Cookson

Fareed’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Zachary Karabell’s The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World.  GPS's John Cookson spoke with him about trade with China and the troubles of telling just how well an economy is doing.

Last  year the United States imported $314 billion more in goods and services from China than it exported to the country. This trade deficit is cited  by some as an example of America’s economic  decline and China’s  ascendency. You say in the book, "not so fast."

I  do say, "not so fast" because I think we are calculating the way goods and products are made in a way that goods and products are no longer made.  The assumption that every product comes from one country is  simply not true.  It's something that many people who know this world better than I do have recognized and have tried to show the ways in  which an iPhone and iPad are made up of multiple components from many  different countries. If you were able to break down where the value of  each of these products goes you would find that it goes to lots of  different places, and it especially goes to whoever has created the  intellectual property in the first place. But most of that is invisible  for trade numbers. Because there isn't a system of breaking down every   manufacturing good in the world into its component parts, we end up  ascribing all the value to a country that has the factory, that did the  final assembly, missing out on all these other aspects of how goods  are  made.

You mentioned the iPhone, which of course advertises itself as being "Designed by Apple in California" and "Assembled in China."

The reality is that from a trade perspective and official trade figures there is no "designed in."

You  write that there are problems not only with measuring  trade, but also  with measuring the overall size of the economy.  Should  gross domestic  product (GDP) and other economic measurements be  replaced with something  different, such as a poll of how happy we are?

I  don't think replacing our numbers with other numbers is really  the  answer. A happiness index is appealing to people because it  purports to  measure the value of things, the value of life and the  quality of life.  But all it does is look at a different set of  variables than GDP.  There's no one number that can capture our  experience of are we  collectively and individually doing well. The kind  of will-o'-the-wisp  of we are going to find a number, a really simple  number, and if it goes  up that means we are all doing well and if it  goes down we are doing  badly – that's just silly on the face of it.

Considering   all the shortcomings of the measurements that are intended to tell us  how an economy is doing, how is the U.S. economy really doing? 

There's  no one answer to that question. And granted, the world is  full of "one  answers" to that question. What I try to do in the book is  help us  understand that, first of all, the economy is just a creation  of  numbers. It isn't a physical, tangible entity that we can easily  measure.

If by "the economy" one means GDP,  which is usually the default  number that people go to to answer the  question of how the economy is  doing, GDP only measures how much stuff  we are making and how much  stuff we are consuming at market prices, that  we can measure.  And  those last two parts are probably the most crucial  – at market prices,  that we can measure.

There's a lot that GDP  doesn't include.  The  limitations of GDP have long been understood, but  the degree to which  we continue to cleave to it remains pretty much  unmitigated.I don’t  think there's an answer to  how the U.S. economy is doing unless one  starts becoming more specific.  What is the earning potential of most  people relative to their cost of  living?  How do we even decide what cost of living is?  Companies are  doing really well.  People who are  wage earners are not doing so well.  Both of those things are true,  while simultaneously the GDP could be  growing.  So, I don’t think there  are the answers we would like, which I  know is not nearly as  satisfying as if I could come up with the perfect  other number that  would then answer that question. But I think that's a  dream world  rather than the real world.

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Topics: Book of the Week • Economy
Book of the Week: The limits of partnership
March 8th, 2014
08:00 PM ET

Book of the Week: The limits of partnership

By John Cookson

Fareed’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Angela Stent's The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century. Stent is the director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian & East European Studies at Georgetown University. GPS's John Cookson spoke with her about the ongoing crisis in Crimea and the numerous attempts to reset relations between the United States and Russia.

You say in the book that there has been far more continuity in Russia policy since the end of the Cold War than many would publicly admit. Why is that? 

We obviously like in our system to think that there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but the issue with Russia is that the presidential inbox has remained largely the same for the last twenty-two years. In the book, I go into six sets of issues with which we’ve constantly had to deal with the Russians, starting off with the nuclear legacy, with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disagreements with Russia over the post-Soviet space (which is obviously very much on display today in Ukraine), the question of Euro-Atlantic security architecture (NATO and EU enlargement and the Russian response to that), then domestic Russian politics and more recently with all the upheaval in the Arab world.

These have been constant problems. Sometimes the approaches have varied a little bit, obviously. In the George W. Bush administration the arms control issues were downplayed, and in the Obama administration they were more important. But in general, many of these issues, including Iran which has been a constant for the past 22 years, haven’t really changed. Most of the people that I interviewed for the book – officials who were in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations – admit the same thing, that there really isn’t that much difference.

FULL POST

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Book of the Week: War Front to Store Front
February 15th, 2014
01:57 AM ET

Book of the Week: War Front to Store Front

By John Cookson

Fareed’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Paul Brinkley's War Front to Store Front. Brinkley was the Pentagon official tasked with getting capitalism going in Iraq and Afghanistan.  GPS's John Cookson spoke with Brinkley this week about his experiences, Afghanistan’s economic potential and the prospects for stability after the U.S. withdraws from the country this year.

Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the politics of Afghanistan and on comments by President Hamid Karzai. But you say economics is the underlying issue for the country. What did you learn about Afghanistan’s economy during your time there?

We launched the mission in 2009, seven years after the Taliban had been deposed. We entered Afghanistan at the request of both the command and the embassy in Afghanistan to provide, to build and to understand what was possible economically. What was shocking about that was there was so much potential. But seven years into the conflict it was late to get started. The two areas we were most aggressively pursuing were resource development – both minerals and oil and gas – as well as agriculture.

Oil and gas and minerals had received no attention at all. And agriculture had basically been limited to provision of fertilizers and seeds, but no improvements in technologies, no improvements in yields, no effort to open markets and connect Afghan agribusinesses to international supply chains. So we immersed ourselves and launched an entire effort there to build a basis of economic stability for the country that you could then rest institutions on.

FULL POST

July 23rd, 2012
12:00 PM ET

A list of Fareed's GPS book recommendations

Here is a list of the books Fareed has recommended over the course of the GPS show. Stock up your library.

11/16/14 America in Retreat by Bret Stephens
11/9/14 The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by Mary Elise Sarotte
11/2/14 The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
10/26/14 Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
10/19/14 The System Worked by Daniel Drezner
10/12/14 Crazy Is a Compliment by Linda Rottenberg
10/5/14 China's Trapped Transition by Minxin Pei
9/28/14 Cosby by Mark Whitaker
9/21/14 Bill Clinton's recommendations: Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler; The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward O. Wilson
9/14/14 World Order by Henry Kissinger
9/7/14 The Intel Trinity by Michael Malone
8/31/14 The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton
8/17/14 Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East by Shadi Hamid
8/10/14 Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz
8/3/14 The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh
7/27/14 First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait by Russia's President by Vladimir Putin and Nataliya Gevorkyan
7/20/14 Higher Education in the Digital Age by William Bowen
7/13/14 The Universe edited by John Brockman
7/6/14 Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn
6/29/14 The Director by David Ignatius
6/22/14 Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story by Jack Devine with Vernon Loeb
6/15/14 The Forever War by Dexter Filkins
6/8/14 Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
6/1/14 Maximalist by Stephen Sestanovich
5/25/14 The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 by Nigel Hamilton
5/18/14 Stress Test by Timothy Geithner
5/11/14 The Fourth Revolution by John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge
5/4/14 Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
4/27/14 The Rule of Nobody by Philip K. Howard
4/20/14 The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama
4/13/14 Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
4/6/14 The Confidence Trap by David Runciman
3/30/14 Particle Fever from Anthos Media
3/23/14 Stringer by Anjan Sundaram
3/16/14
The Leading Indicators by Zachary Karabell
3/9/14 The Limits of Partnership by Angela Stent
3/2/14 The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle
2/23/14 The Steps Across the Water by Adam Gopnik
2/16/14
War Front to Store Front by Paul Brinkley
2/9/14 The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
2/2/14
1/26/14
Amsterdam by Russell Shorto
1/19/14
India Grows at Night by Gurcharan Das
1/12/14
If Mayors Ruled the World by Benjamin Barber
1/5/14
The Kennan Diaries by George Kennan,
edited by Frank Costigliola
12/22/13
The Great War by Mark Holborn and Hilary Roberts
12/15/13
Reimagining India edited by McKinsey & Company
12/08/13 My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit
12/01/13 Islam without Extremes by Mustafa Akyol
11/17/13 The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidencyby James Tobin
11/10/13 The Atlantic's Technology IssueNovember 2013 edition
11/03/13 If Kennedy Lived by Jeff Greenfield
10/27/13 Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 by Rana Mitter
10/20/13 The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson
10/13/13 It's Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein
10/6/13 David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
09/29/13 Unthinkable by Kenneth Pollack
09/22/13 Innocent Abroadby Martin Indyk
09/15/13 A Peace to End All Peaceby David Fromkin
09/08/13 The Age of Edison by Ernest Freeberg
09/01/13 Harvesting the Biosphere by Vaclav Smil
08/25/13 Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century by Orville Schell and John Delury; The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
08/18/13 Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
08/11/13 Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedomby Conrad Black
08/04/13 This Town by Mark Leibovich
07/28/13 Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century by Orville Schell and John Delury
07/21/13 Museums Matter by James Cuno
07/14/13 The Metropolitan Revolution by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley
07/07/13 The Idea of America by Gordon Wood
06/30/13 Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst
06/23/13 Talibanistan by Peter Bergen
06/16/13 Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era by Joseph Nye
06/09/13 Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl
06/02/13 Strange Stones by Peter Hessler
05/26/13 The Annals of Unsolved Crime by Edward Jay Epstein
05/19/13 Return of a King by William Dalrymple
05/05/13 Foreign Policy Begins at Home by Richard Haass
04/28/13 The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
04/21/13 The Way of the Knifeby Mark Mazzetti
04/14/13 The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
04/07/13 This Explains Everything by John Brockman
03/31/13 The End of Power by Moises Naim
03/24/13 Catastrophic Care by David Goldhill
03/17/13 Double Entry by Jane Gleeson-White
03/10/13  China Goes Global: The Partial Power by David Shambaugh
03/03/13 Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insightsby Graham Allison & Robert Blackwill
02/24/13 Here's the Dealby David Leonhardt
02/17/13 Engineers of Victory by Paul Kennedy
02/10/13 Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerilla Warfareby Max Boot
02/03/13 After the Music Stopped by Alan Blinder
01/27/13 The Idea Factory: Bells Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner
01/13/13 Why Romney Lost by David Frum
01/06/13 Foreign Affairs January/February 2013 edition
12/23/12 The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
12/09/12 Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budgetby David Wessel
12/02/12 Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
11/25/12 Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
11/18/12 A Nation of Takers by Nicholas Eberstadt
11/11/12 The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan
11/04/12 Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum
10/28/12 Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland
10/21/12 The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail, but Some Don't by Nate Silver
10/14/12 The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Eraby Michael Grunwald
10/07/12 The Parties Versus The People by Mickey Edwards
09/30/12 The Oath: the Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
09/23/12 The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria
09/16/12 This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil Warby Drew Faust
09/09/12 Interventions: A Life in War and Peace by Kofi Annan
09/02/12 Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Areby Sebastian Seung
08/26/12 Einstein: His Life And Universe by Walter Isaacson
08/05/12 The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
07/29/12 The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
07/22/12 The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
07/15/12 The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran
07/08/12 Adapt by Tim Harford, Franklin and Winston, an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by John Meacham, The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore White, The Increment, by David Ignatius, and The Post-American World: Release 2.0 by Fareed Zakaria
07/01/12 Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States by Michael Lind
06/24/12 Fate of the Species by Fred Guterl
06/17/12 The Dictator's Learning Curve by William Dobson
06/10/12 Adapt by Tim Harford
06/03/12 The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson
05/27/12 China Airborne by James Fallows
05/20/12 The Post-American World, 2.0 by Fareed Zakaria
05/13/12 The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart
05/06/12 The Passage of Power by Robert Caro
04/29/12 End This Depression Now by Paul Krugman
04/22/12 Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
04/15/12 George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
04/08/12 Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma
04/01/12 Franklin and Winston, An Intimate Portrait of An Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham
03/25/12 Paper Promises: Debt, Money, and the New World Order by Philip Coggan
03/18/12 Republic Lost, How Money Corrupts Congress and A Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig
03/11/12 The Benefit And The Burden, Tax Reform, Why We Need It And What It Will Take by Bruce Bartlett
03/04/12 The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore White
02/26/12 Behind The Beautiful Forevers byKatherine Boo
02/19/12 How to Win an Election by Quintus Tullius Cicero
02/12/12 Coming Apart by Charles Murray
02/05/12 The Unquiet American edited by Samantha Power and Derek Chollet
01/29/12 A Separation, Oscar nominated film FULL POST
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Topics: Book of the Week
6 books to catch up with during summer
July 5th, 2012
07:45 AM ET

6 books to catch up with during summer

Looking for a good read this summer? On each episode, the "Fareed Zakaria GPS" show highlights a Book of the Week. Have you missed any? Then catch up on these past five recommendations and tell us what you would recommend in the comments below.

"Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States." Author Michael Lind, one of the founders of the New America Foundation, gives a revealing history of the American economy, emphasizing the crucial role that the state has played in making America an economic superpower. It will unsettle many of your cherished beliefs.

"Fate of the Species." In elegant, compelling prose, Fred Guterl, who is one of the great science journalists of today, lays out the megachallenges we confront - super viruses, climate change, disappearing species.
FULL POST

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Topics: Book of the Week
Getting bin Laden
August 7th, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Getting bin Laden

Instead of my usual book of the week, I highly recommend you all read this article by Nicholas Schmidle in The New Yorker magazine . Here's an excerpt:

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft. FULL POST

June 26th, 2011
07:00 PM ET

Book of the week on Zimbabwe

This week's "Book of the Week" is Peter Godwin's The Fear.

It's a beautifully written, harrowing account of the ruin of a country.

The country is Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, where Godwin was born.

The year is 2008.

That's when the nation's long time tyrannical ruler Robert Mugabe lost an election and brutalized his nation as punishment.

Here's the blurb for the book:

FULL POST

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Topics: Book of the Week
June 16th, 2011
11:43 AM ET

Perfect Father's Day Gift: The Post-American World (Release 2.0)

Looking for the perfect Father's Day gift?

How about a book that can put today's rapidly changing world in lucid perspective?

Fareed's updated book, The Post-American World (Release 2.0), is the perfect gift for the intellectually curious father.

You can get it on your eReader, as an audiobook, in paperback and in hardcover.

FULL POST

May 23rd, 2011
05:13 PM ET

Book of the Week: Banned by Mubarak regime

My book of the week was published three years ago, but - in a strikingly prescient way - foretold the January revolution here.

It's called "Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharoahs on the Brink of a Revolution" and it was written by John R. Bradley.

The book was banned by the Mubarak's regime - and understandably so!  If you want to understand how Egypt got to this crossroads, read this book.

May 17th, 2011
08:26 PM ET

Book of the week: Kissinger's "On China"

My book of the week is former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's latest, On China. This is a must read.

Part history, part memoir of Kissinger's extensive dealings with Chinese leaders over 40 years and part analysis, this is a major work.

That Henry Kissinger could write such an ambitious book at the age of 87 is just extraordinary.

Here's the description of the book from Amazon: FULL POST

April 26th, 2011
04:42 PM ET

Book of the week on the best advice I ever got

My book suggestion this week is Katie Couric's The Best Advice I Ever Got, featuring life lessons from everyone from Mike Bloomberg to Donald Trump, from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton and from Melinda Gates to Martha Stewart.

There is a chapter by yours truly.

The best part is the proceeds from this book help send worthy kids to college.

April 17th, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Book of the week on American innovation

This week's book of the week is Innovation Nation: How America is losing its innovation edge, why it matters, and what we can do to get it back by John Kao. From Publisher's Weekly:

"Alarmed by the lack of innovation in the United States today, former Harvard Business School professor and current consultant Kao diagnoses the situation, describes best practices, explains how innovation works and puts forth a strategy proposal, all in an attempt to squirt ice water in America's ear.

Kao - who has been an entrepreneur, a psychiatrist, an educator and a pianist for Frank Zappa - is clearly passionate about his premise. Aimed primarily at policy makers and legislators, his three-pronged agenda is designed to help the government create a culture committed to constantly reinventing the nature of its innovation capabilities."

I'll have a special on innovation on GPS in June.

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