The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World
Ruchir Sharma, W.W. Norton, 466 pages, $27.95. In the boom years between 2003 and 2010, it appeared that a new era of openness and global supply chains would help emerging countries grow at turbocharged rates for decades, closing the gap with the rich world. Today, that idea is out of fashion. Brazil’s economy is shrinking, China’s debts are terrifying and Russia is a rusting autocracy. Emerging countries are growing at 4 percent, half as fast as in 2006. Into the wreckage steps Ruchir Sharma, a fund manager and author of 2012’s bestselling “Breakout Nations.” His new book has three aims: to assess the crash, to dismantle the analysis that led investors and economists to get overexcited, and to offer a new framework for thinking about emerging countries. The result is ambitious. It covers four-fifths of the world’s population and 40 percent of its GDP, and though it is sometimes rambling, it is also entertaining, acute and disarmingly honest. Sharma sees the world from the ruthless and restless perspective of an investor. Sharma predicts countries’ prospects will rise and fall over cycles of up to 10 years. For investors, the trick will be to bet on a country before the next cycle of hype begins. Sharma has a knack for sharp comparisons between countries, for example, Australia’s history of high immigration to Japan’s insularity. The book is an unashamedly business-class view of the world. Nevertheless, Sharma’s book is a fine guide to the great emerging market boom and bust.