All posts by John Psarouthakis

drjohn11aDr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor of www.BusinessThinker.com, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, publisher of www.GavdosPress.com and Founder and former CEO, JP Industries, Inc., a Fortune 500 industrial corporation

Democracy is Not Dying

Seeing Through the Doom and Gloom

This article was first posted in Foreign Affairs


By THOMAS CAROTHERS who is Senior Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His most recent book is Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution.

And RICHARD YOUNGS who is is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  He is the author of eleven books on democracy and European policy, including the new book, Europe’s Eastern Crisis: The Geopolitics of Asymmetry

In the West, it is difficult to escape the pessimism that pervades current discussions of global affairs. From Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the never-ending crises of the European Union, to the Syrian catastrophe and the rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), the world appears to be tearing at the seams. Meanwhile, democracy itself appears to be unraveling—helped along by resurgent authoritarianism, weakened liberal democratic values, rising populism, and contagious illiberalism.
Democracy has unquestionably lost its global momentum. According to Freedom House, there are only a handful more electoral democracies in the world today than there were at the start of this century. Dozens of newer democracies in the developing world are struggling to put down roots, and many older democracies—including, of course, the United States—are troubled. The theory that democratic transitions naturally move in a positive direction and that established democracies don’t tumble backward no longer holds water.

The gloom has become so thick, however, that it obscures reality. A number of politicians, journalists, and analysts are overstating or oversimplifying negative trends and overlooking positive developments. They too easily cast U.S. President Donald Trump’s rise, the Brexit vote, and the mainstreaming of populism in many parts of Europe as part of an all-embracing, global counterrevolution against liberal norms. Although the state of democracy around the world is indeed very troubled, it is not uniformly dire, especially outside the West.

IDEALIZING THE PAST AND FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVE

Today’s intensifying apprehension is infused with nostalgia for the 1990s and early 2000s as a period of strong global commitment to liberal norms. Yet even then, illiberal forces were asserting themselves. In 1997, for example, the political commentator Fareed Zakaria famously warned in Foreign Affairs of the “rise of illiberal democracy,” arguing that “half of the ‘democratizing’ countries in the world today are illiberal democracies.” Earlier that year, also in Foreign Affairs, one of the authors of this article (Thomas Carothers) gave a sober assessment of the state of global democracy, noting that “there is still sometimes good news on the democracy front . . . but a counter-movement of stagnation and retrenchment is evident.”

And even at the height of democracy’s third wave at the end of the 1990s, the Middle East remained almost entirely a democracy-free zone, the former Soviet Union was headed much more toward authoritarianism than democracy, and Africa’s widely celebrated “new leaders,” including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, were antidemocratic strongmen. East Asia also had many well-entrenched dictatorial systems. This is not to deny that serious new challenges to democracy have arisen in recent years. But the current shift away from a supposedly idyllic “liberal moment” in the immediate post–Cold War era is a matter of degree, not kind.

Those who despair the future of democracy tend to focus on a select set of highly visible negative developments—especially the searing failure of the Arab Spring and the rise of illiberal populism in Europe and the United States. Yet in other important regions the picture is different. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index scores for Asia and Africa show a modest improvement over the last decade. Indeed, the quality of democracy has improved in places such as Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, the Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine in spite of the serious problems they have faced. In Latin America, the illiberal populist wave in the early 2000s is receding. Colombia and Nepal have both brokered peace accords with rebel movements, ending decades of civil war, and have seen record numbers of citizens commit to democratic institutions and norms.

The scholars Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk have usefully warned that “democratic deconsolidation” may be occurring in Western democracies as a result of declines in adherence to core democratic values. But as Harvard University’s Pippa Norris has noted, some opinion surveys based on broader data sets reveal that this is not a consistent pattern across Western democracies. Moreover, the current decline is not widely found outside of the West. In Africa and Latin America, public support for core democratic values has remained high and steady over the last decade. The Afrobarometer, for example, shows that over 70 percent of Africans reject nondemocratic forms of democracy. And despite the dispiriting results of the Arab Spring, the World Values Survey shows that support for democracy in the Middle East is on a gradual, upward trajectory.

OVERGENERALIZING POPULISM

After Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, some observers, such as Alfred McCoy writing in The Nation, associated Trump with a number of very different actors who present widely divergent degrees of democratic threat—such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Indonesian former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. But not all political parties or persons considered populist harbor equally illiberal or authoritarian tendencies. Nor are all current authoritarian trends necessarily rooted in populism.

Some authoritarian leaders who are labeled as populist may use populist flourishes, such as casting themselves as “men of the people,” but they are at most skin-deep populists—meaning they do not represent alternatives to traditional power who gain influence by mobilizing disadvantaged constituencies. Putin, for example, is often referred to by Western journalists as a populist leader. Yet he is a product of Russia’s long-standing repressive state apparatus and is profoundly wary of popular mobilization. Similarly, Egyptian President Fattah el-Sisi may employ what The New York Times referred to in 2014 as the speaking style of “a charismatic populist,” but he comes straight out of Egypt’s traditional power establishment.

That populism has a global reach is yet another exaggeration. The recent talk of a “global populist movement” sheds more heat than light on democracy’s travails. After all, populism has not made notable gains in Africa, the Middle East, or Latin America in recent years. Asia, of course, does have Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a very clear illiberal populist, as well as India’s Modi, whose appeals to Hindu “majoritarianism” have a distinct populist tinge. But on the whole, there is no overarching populist trend in Asia. The “global populist wave” narrative implies that the world is going through a time of dizzying and uncertain change. Yet the most common problem in countries struggling to make democracy work is the entrenchment of corrupt elites who block any substantial change, resulting in the gradual atrophy of democratic norms and institutions.

Further adding to the pessimistic outlook is the tendency to interpret the rise and spread of protests as another sign of a populist epidemic. As the thinking goes, protesters are angry at their politicians, and populism feeds on such anger. In this telling, the spread of protests means the spread of populism. Writing in December 2016, for example, Sam Kim described the Korean protests against President Park Geun-hye as part of the populist wave that produced Brexit and Trump’s victory.

Large-scale protests are indeed on the rise around the world. But what is striking about them is that they have mostly sought to toss out corrupt leaders, not anoint populist demagogues. South Korea’s recent protests were about better governance and resulted in political parties from across the ideological spectrum coming together to impeach a corrupt president. The most significant protests in Guatemala’s recent history led to the ouster of a corrupt president and the start of some serious institutional reforms. The protest movements that have gathered steam in Romania over the past few years have succeeded in making anticorruption a central issue in Romanian politics.

Of course, populist leaders often turn to the streets when their backs are against the wall. During the coup attempt in Turkey last July, for example, Erdogan relied on popular mobilization to help him retain his power. Yet on the whole, the wave of protests around the world is mostly about demands for government accountability. Power holders in many countries are pushing hard against independent civil society, often trying to limit its scope. Negative though this trend is, it is a sign of the wide spread of citizen empowerment as both an idea and an organizing principle.

MISCONSTRUING THE AUTHORITARIAN SURGE

It is certainly true that various authoritarian governments have become more audacious in geopolitical pursuits outside their borders. This includes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, involvement in Syria, and political meddling in the United States and Europe. Other examples include China’s sharper edge in the South China Sea, Iran’s heightened role in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and Saudi Arabia’s military involvement in Yemen and Syria. Greater assertiveness by authoritarian powers has many negative implications for the future of global democracy. This does not mean, however, that authoritarianism, as a type of political regime, is succeeding.

Most authoritarian regimes struggle with profound internal challenges and weaknesses. In fact, it is precisely the difficulties authoritarian systems have in delivering goods to their citizens that often spur them to become more assertive outside their borders. Foreign adventurism can help authoritarian leaders distract their own people from their domestic failings. Putin’s inability to carry out effective economic and anticorruption reforms, combined with the devastating effect of falling oil prices on the Russian economy, has pushed him to find other ways to maintain his domestic legitimacy. Provocative actions abroad are a natural choice. Although China has sustained its economic miracle, its visible corruption and slower economic growth in recent years have forced President Xi Jinping to nurture other sources of legitimacy—a tougher foreign policy is one result.

In short, although liberal democracy is facing greater cross-border challenges from authoritarian powers, the central threat is not authoritarianism’s success as a political system but rather the instability that such regimes produce.

Undoubtedly, there is much ground for discouragement. The overall state of democracy in the world is much less healthy than predicted during the early years of democracy’s third wave. Yet a sense of perspective is needed: the past was not as bright as many seem to remember, democracy is holding steady in some regions, populism is not as global a trend as is often portrayed, and most people are more interested in accountability than illiberalism. The tendency to view global developments through the lens of antidemocratic counterrevolution provides a distorted picture. A more nuanced perspective might not dispel the gloom, but it may help prevent a lapse into disabling pessimism and, consequently, the mistake of giving up on supporting democracy as part of Western foreign policy.

 

Instead of soaking the rich, create some new riches: an update

drjohn11a

Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor.www.BusinessThinker.com.
Founder and Managing Director, www.jpmcenter.com

We all know that if we confiscate the entire 2017 earnings of the highest earners and sent it to Washington, you would solve almost nothing in Washington. Most of us, I hope, understand furthermore that pulling the One Percent’s wealth away from the capitalist funnel that feeds our economy would be worse than solving nothing; it would be a serious problem. This plan would, on the other hand, goad the very top layer of American wealth to do everything in its power to grow the economic pie.

I first thought of the plan applying to any person or entity with taxable income of $1 million a year or more. That was partly because a million dollars is certainly a nice income—but also because it’s an easy figure with which to work in sorting out numerical concepts. A $1-million cutoff would apply to an army of CEOs and business owners, but also to several battalions of quarterbacks, pitchers, power forwards, rock guitar players, actors, and media performers or executives. Applying the plan to the entire One Percent would cover any household making roughly $506,000 and up. Maybe the plan could be modified and applied effectively to affluent but somewhat lower pay grades. I don’t know. Economists and tax experts and actuaries and mathematicians who are whizzes with algorithms—lots of people need to have a go at fine-tuning and improving what I will call here “Economic Growth Corporations.”

These Economic Growth Corporations (EGCs) would not be think tanks, or advisory panels, or bureaucracies whose public benefit can be measured only via the most imaginative statistics. EGCs would be chartered to grow the economy in fact, not in theory and not as mere demonstration projects. EGCs would jumpstart our economic engine in ways numerous schemes, from “enterprise zones” to your town’s tax-abated industrial park, have never done.

Continue reading Instead of soaking the rich, create some new riches: an update

Job Prospects In Southeast Michigan Keep Growing – Unemployment At 16-Year Low

There’s good news for jobseekers; employers in southeast Michigan are hiring. From April through June, the region’s unemployment rate reached 3.8 percent—a low not seen since 2001. Yet, even with the number of job postings on an upward trend year-to-year, a stagnant labor force portends more workers will be needed to meet future employer demand in the region.

These latest findings and more are analyzed in the Q2 2017 labor market reports, compiled by the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN) for a 16-county area in southeast Michigan and other regions.

For the complete article please go to  http://bit.ly/2zde2sk

 

Consumer Confidence Surges In October To Highest Level Since 2004

MITECHNEWS.COM Staff writer

Consumer sentiment surged in October, reaching its highest level since the start of 2004, according to the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

This was only the second time that the Sentiment Index was above 100.0 since the end of the record 1990s expansion. The October gain was due to the most favorable assessments of the financial situation of consumers since 2000, said U-M economist Richard Curtin, director of the surveys.

For the article please click on   http://bit.ly/2yYtGGK

 

Does European Populism Exist?

BY Timothy Garton Ash a British historian, author and commentator. He is Professor of European Studies at Oxford University.

What is populism? Where does it come from; where is it going? What does it mean for the world’s institutions and what can be done about? asks Dani Rodrik in introducing the inaugural talk by the  Weatherhead Center Cluster on Global Populism with Tim Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford, speaking at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard last month.

This lecture has been published in the Social Europe Journal on
October 27, 2017. To listen to it please visit:

Does European Populism Exist?

National Fiscal Flexibility: EU Parliament Plans A Big Step Backwards

By John Weeks. He is an economist and Professor Emeritus at SOAS, University of London. John received his PhD in economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1969. He is author of a new book entitled ‘Economics of the 1%: How mainstream economics serves the rich, obscures reality and distorts policy’ (Anthem).

I and many others have argued that the basic EU treaties have flexibility to accommodate most social democratic policies such as those in the 2017 Manifesto of the UK Labour Party. Our argument may soon suffer a decisive blow from the EU parliament.

In March 2012 twenty-five EU national governments signed the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG), the “fiscal pact”. By signing national governments “contracted” (the treaty term) to obey its detailed fiscal rules. The TSCG did not achieve unanimous approval, thus could not become part of the de facto EU constitution; i.e., contrary to the intention of the fiscally reactionary governments, it was not incorporated into the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Continue reading National Fiscal Flexibility: EU Parliament Plans A Big Step Backwards

Assetization of Human Capital

By Martin Ejenobor. Partner at Revele. He  is a Business Adviser, Innovation Strategist, Speaker, Trainer, Thinker and Entrepreneur with over 15- years multifaceted experience proffering solutions “to” various industries including FMCG, Luxury Goods, Human Resource Development and Sports.

“This article addresses the concept of people as capital that companies can buy and sell. Is this just a dream or it’s a trend?
How soon will it happen if at all”

Here are some excerpts from this article posted in LinkedIn recently. Click on the link at the end of this sharing.

“Let’s start by defining the word ‘asset’ then we will describe it in context for clarity”.

“The definition of the word asset usually comes close to the ability of a (tangible or intangible) things to be monetized. If it cannot be sold, it is has no value for the which it may be traded then it is not an asset”.

“Human Capital is a Knowledge Based Asset (KBA) and therefore yields as such. So back to our talk of assetization, it is clear that an asset is anything an entity can trade for money (Knowledge, property -tangible or intangible, stocks, bonds, etc) but has any organization traded its humans (staff) as assets? Your guess is as good as mine- none!”

Continue reading Assetization of Human Capital

Robots v experts: are any human professions safe from automation?

Editor’s note: Given the intense discussion on the employment issues generated by the Robotics technology, I found this book presentation published by British www.theguardian.com very relevant and I am refering to it here.

By

Richard Susskind OBE is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to international professional firms and national governments. He is president of the Society for Computers and law IT adviser to the lord chief justice. Tomorrow’s Lawyers is his eighth book,

and

Daniel Susskind is an economist, lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford, and co-author with Richard Susskind of The Future of the Professions

The main themes of our book, The Future of the Professions, can be put simply: machines are becoming increasingly capable and so are taking on more and more tasks.

Many of these tasks were once the exclusive preserve of human professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. While new tasks will certainly emerge in years to come, it is probable that machines will, over time, take on many of these as well. In the 2020s, we say, this will not mean unemployment, but rather a need for widespread retraining and redeployment. In the long run though, we find it hard to avoid the conclusion that there will be a steady decline in the need for traditional professional workers.

During the year after the book’s hardback publication in October 2015, we tested this line of argument on audiences of professionals in more than 20 countries, speaking to around 15,000 people at over 100 events. The response, frankly, was mixed. Our work seems to polarise people into those who agree zealously with our thesis, and those who reject it unreservedly. Both sides argue their views passionately.

For the entire article please click

WHO BUYS COMPANIES AND WHY

If you are buying a business for the first time, you will find that buying a business is a unique experience that requires extensive knowledge and skills in a broad spectrum of areas–legal, accounting, banking, financing, understanding of government regulations, especially in areas of environment, safety and employee relations.  You must learn how to obtain and screen leads, how to evaluate and price prospective companies, and how to conduct due diligence. But even highly experienced entrepreneurs who have completed dozens of deals still rely upon professional expertise for certain phases of the process.  Thus expect that even after you learn more about the deal-making process, you will still need to hire consultants to assist you in making a successful purchase.

Buying a company is very demanding because it is an intellectual, pragmatic and emotional process, all in one. It is an intellectual process because to be successful you have to think it out.  It is a pragmatic process because you have to be realistic about the company you are looking to buy, whether it is worth buying, what its real value is, and what it should be priced at. And buying a company, finally, is an emotional process.  Throughout negotiations, beginning with first contact with the seller and continuing through to the closing of the sale, you experience tremendous highs and lows. You must be able to handle both extremes of emotion. You must handle the highs, so as not to reveal your enthusiasm to the seller, and after the lows, to be able to come back and find a solution to the problem that might otherwise kill the deal.  The emotional component holds true even after many deals but you do learn to control those emotions with practice.

Reasons for Buying Your Own Business

Some of the reasons for buying your own business are similar to those of any entrepreneur: to control your own destiny; the personal challenge, making money, the satisfaction of building and running something on your own. Continue reading WHO BUYS COMPANIES AND WHY