Why G-Zero is a good thing

By Zachary Karabell
May 2, 2012

This is the second in a series of responses to Ian Bremmer’s excerpt of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World. The first response can be read here.

It’s said that predictions are risky business, especially those about the future. No one knows that better than Ian Bremmer, who in addition to his multiple books has created one of the more successful risk analysis organizations. Being in the business of highlighting risks, he has for the past few years focused on the breakdown of the world order most of us grew up with, whether a 20th century world of great-power struggles or an early 21st century world of American economic and military preponderance. Now, says Bremmer, those systems are finished and in their stead we have… nothing.

It’s a compelling, alarming and yet exhilarating vision – though few probably embrace that last adjective. Compelling because it admits that most of the models we use to predict what will be are based on a world that no longer exists and hence are likely to be wrong. Alarming because it leaves us with a tabula rasa whose outcomes are utterly uncertain. Yet exhilarating because it offers the promise of a brave new world that may go in any direction, including more productive and positive ones than many observers currently assume.

Bremmer extrapolates from current trends about what this world might look like, and tends to focus on the dangers that lurk rather than the diamonds in the rough. He sees tough times for China, whose model, he predicts, will be less able to adapt to a world of increased competition for natural resources and more state capitalism that competes directly with the Chinese. He sees hard roads for weak states and troubled societies, with Syria’s grinding civil war and lack of international action just a harbinger. He sees a United States constrained by debt and a public looking inward, and a euro zone mired in years of crisis. And while he does acknowledge that even a G-Zero world will have winners such as Brazil and Turkey, he sees the emerging vacuum as more of a challenge than an opportunity.

As a description of the world we are entering, it is trenchant. Yes, the United States will remain the world’s largest economy for a while to come and its most dominant military power for a generation. But the coercive power of those assets is and will be ever more muted. Fewer societies around the world believe that the American model is the one to copy, and a large military can preserve security but not prosperity. Multiple states around the globe have the confidence, the leadership and the means to chart their own way and refuse to bow to the will of any other nation. And as the 20th century mechanisms for handling all sorts of international affairs decay, unpredictable crises and unforeseeable outcomes will become more common.

But that doesn’t mean that the international system will be less stable or that prosperity and security will not proliferate. There is, in fact, a risk that peace will break out, rendering the traditional tools of states less useful. It’s clear already that global companies are reaping astonishing benefits from the growth of a global middle class and from a largely anarchic but effective flow of commerce and capital that seems to be working brilliantly almost everywhere except in its 20th century heartlands of Europe and the United States.

In essence, if the G-Zero idea is pushed further, you could be left with a world that truly doesn’t look like the 20th century, or like most centuries. It could be a world where the absence of great-power conflict – the rivalry of China and the United States notwithstanding – leads not to chaos and anarchy but to stability and, at most, low-level armed conflicts. You could be in a world where the dominant theme is the churning and rapid transition of billions of people from agrarian and urban poverty into a middle class that consumes apartments, white goods, food, clothing and entertainment. And you could be in a world where tension is ubiquitous, uncertainty constant, but actual lethal and society-destroying conflict preciously rare.

A G-Zero world might bring the host of risks Bremmer suggests, but the old model was marked by lethal conflict, enhanced by technology. That is not a model whose passing any of us should mourn. The future may be fraught but the past…well, good riddance.

378 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

My partner and I stumbled over here coming from a different lotopyeer web address and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.

No matter if some one searches for his required thing, therefore he/she needs to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.|

I am sure this post has touched all the internet people, its really really fastidious article on building up new webpage.|

Hello there! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading through your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics? Thanks for your time!|

Thankfulness to my father who stated to me about this web site, this web site is really remarkable.|

I do believe all the ideas you’ve offered to your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for beginners. Could you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.|

Hello there! This article could not be written much better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a good read. Thank you for sharing!|

There is definately a great deal to find out about this issue. I really like all of the points you’ve made.|

Terrific article! This is the type of information that are meant to be shared around the internet. Shame on the search engines for no longer positioning this post upper! Come on over and consult with my website . Thanks =)|

Regards for sharing your neat website.|

Every weekend i used to pay a visit this site, because i want enjoyment, as this this web page conations genuinely good funny stuff too.|

Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very helpful info specifically the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was looking for this particular info for a long time. Thank you and good luck.|

I just couldn’t leave your website before suggesting that I actually loved the standard information an individual provide on your guests? Is gonna be again incessantly in order to inspect new posts|

Great weblog right here! Additionally your website lots up very fast! What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink on your host? I want my site loaded up as fast as yours lol|

This paragraph presents clear idea in favor of the new visitors of blogging, that truly how to do blogging.|

Usually I don’t read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very forced me to take a look at and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.|

Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!|

Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!|