Sunday, 23 October 2016

REVIEW: "The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline" by Jonathan Tepperman

Book Review by Sapphire Ng

The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline
by Jonathan Tepperman
Tim Duggan Books
Copyright September 2016
Hardcover, 320 Pages

The Fix is immensely informative, tremendously engaging, and remarkably researched. The book makes for a synchronously enjoyable and educational read; the awe-inspiring narratives of nations successfully overcoming seemingly insurmountable trials are deeply inspiring. The book is commendably well-written, and contains a plenitude of salient statistics, intriguing details, and thoughtful evaluations, and is highly recommended for ardent students of government, politics and policy, and for passionate and shrewd global citizens. 

Extraordinarily profound matters are covered in the book. The author for example, documented the way Botswana has miraculously defeated the Resource Curse that has mercilessly and staunchly afflicted many resource rich nations in Africa or otherwise; the country “bucked history, development theory, and the law of averages” to becoming the “the envy of Africa.” Rwanda on the other hand, was highlighted for its president Paul Kagame’s strategic post-genocide recovery plan, particularly the creation of the fittingly revolutionary gacaca courts embodying a blend of justice and reconciliation that has rather effectively helped rebuild the nation. 

The Indonesian government was spotlighted in the book for having waged a successful war against Islamic extremism, radicalism and terrorism, and for thereafter elevating the country to becoming “one of the more successful democracies in the world,” and especially to becoming an oddity—“a safe and stable beacon of open, decent, and tolerant rule”—in the Muslim world. When it comes to Brazil, the author lauded the dramatic success of the Bolsa Familia antipoverty program launched by former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—a voice of “financially principled populism”—in tackling poverty and inequality.

Discussion of Canada’s immigration revolution was distinctly fascinating. It was certainly profound to learn that Canada has avoided having “a single anti-immigrant riot in half a century” despite such forms of turmoil having plagued “virtually every other” advanced industrialized democracies. Or to learn of uniquely American circumstances that led to the country’s shale revolution—a complex interplay of factors including the US landowners law—landowners are granted rights “not just to their turf but to everything that lies beneath it as well”—; support and investment by the US government in the industry; and even individuals such as the oilman and celebrated visionary George Mitchell for initiating the technique of “slick-water fracking.” 

The eclectic range of issues are discussed in the book through singularly interesting perspectives and details. Examples include the notions of multiculturalism, pluralism, and mandatory bilingualism as advocated by Canada’s former prime minister and shrewd pragmatist Pierre Elliott Trudeau; the Rwandan government’s role in adopting drastic maneuvers such as banning “sectarianism” and “divisionism” in order to turn the country into a race-blind nation; or even the seemingly ludicrous but apposite parsimony—government officials and ministers were banned from engaging in supposedly lavish expenditures such as using chauffeurs or flying first class—displayed by Botswana’s first president Seretse Khama, as the leader of the country which has ranked as the world’s number one diamond producer by value. 

In discussions of South Korea, the country was highlighted for its pace and continuity of growth surpassing that of “any other state,” and its transition from a destitute to a wealthy nation. The author traced the country’s fascinating progress from developmental dictatorship to democratization, and thereafter to liberalization under the stewardship of leaders such as the authoritarian Park Chung-hee, or the dissident Kim Dae-jung. 

A particularly astounding detail the author furnished regarding Brazil’s rather successful implementation of Bolsa Familia pertains to its inspirational role to numerous foreign countries; the US has since notably launched Bolsa Familia-inspired programs such as Family Rewards 2.0 and Opportunity NYC. On the other hand, it is beyond intriguing to learn of the Indonesian former president Yudhoyono’s strategy against Islamist extremists which involved appropriating the Islamists’ main campaign themes. 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. 

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