Edge of Chaos!

Edge of Chaos!

Photo credit: Janet Donovan

“I was born and raised in Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world. Throughout my life and formative years there, I was always told that the path to economic success and prosperity was through liberal democracy and market capitalism. Over the last decade, I’ve traveled to over 80 countries around the world and it’s clear that people are no longer convinced,” author Dambisa Moyo told an attentive audience at the Washington, DC Kalorama home of Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter co-hosted by Steve Biegon, Devon Spurgeon and Ziad Ojakla. “The question I have is why are they no longer convinced? I think it’s because we’re no longer convincing. People like myself who believe in liberal democracy and market capitalism are simply no longer convincing. There are a whole host of reasons that we think that democracy is under siege, as you probably are aware: Things like the concerns around voter participation declining; real issues around trust. The Pew Survey suggests that 80% of Americans no longer trust the federal government to do what is right on a regular basis. Concerns that money has seeped into the political process that has led to just 158 families controlling or contributing 50% of the political contributions to the last U.S. presidency, presidential election.”  Edge if Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth— and How to Fix It is a provocative call to jump-start economic growth by aggressively overhauling liberal democracy.

“Really – on the macro level – we’re seeing populism on the rise, and the survey by the World Economic Forum suggesting that citizens around the world now trust authoritarian governments more than democracies to deliver economic progress,” Moyo continued.  “So to me it’s urgent that we solve this malaise in the political process. The world needs democracy to function, it has to be a standard bearer. The United States in particular has to show itself to be the vanguard of [Democracy], of politics and in that respect it has to innovate. It cannot be the case that we should always be pointing fingers at countries that are blatantly non-democratic as being the source of problems. What I’ve done in my book is to highlight the urgency of getting the democratic process right. We are facing enormous economic headwinds. Everything from the risk of technology and the jobless underclass, widening income inequality, concerns about the speed of the world’s population that will leave us with 11 billion people on the planet in just a few decades, and real deep concerns about the amount of debt that the nation here, but more generally the global economy is carrying. This is unsustainable, these are all long-term inter-generational challenges and these headwinds are mounting at exactly the time when politics has become much more short-term and liberal democracies have politicians that are incredibly myopic. So what I’ve done in the book is offer ten proposals to not only close the myopia, the schism and a mismatch between long-term economics and short-termism of government, but also to rebuild in the legitimacy that I think is missing.”

This was heady stuff for a Saturday night party, so Dambis promised to keep it short so we and she could get drunk.  However, since the subject was so compelling, guests prolonged that opportunity by engaging in a Q and A taking on Brexit, political terms for the presidency, mandatory voting and what other countries are doing to preserve Democracy.

Christopher Reiter and Beth Solomon

I will just close by saying Jean-Claude Juncker, who is the current sitting president of the European Commission, whose first sentence in my book has been quoted as saying, ‘We all know what we need to do, (speaking about politicians) but we don’t know to get re-elected after we’ve done it.’  I think that to me is incredibly corrosive and I thank him for being that honest, but it’s rather depressing.”