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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
China has long term perspectives. Democracies have short term perspectives. China is ruled by a meritocracy where individuals are tested in the Provinces and promoted or demoted depending on performance. China's central tenet is the good of all. Democracies are ruled by special interest groups hogging the headlines and the national agendas. Votes make prizes. The consumer rules. The future is someone else's problem, the example of California is most intriguing.

This is the scope of Intelligent Governance For The 21st Century. In the opening introduction I had mixed messages. I have read Jacques Attali's A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century an author whom Messrs Berggruen and Gardels admire. I found that book favouring wealth for the already wealthy. Another author whom they admire did impress me with his Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalisation an excellent overview of the geopolitical landscape by Gordon Brown.

What I am loving about Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century is the focus on the manner of governance. I write this review in the week that the UK Conservative Party has announced it will hold a referendum on whether the UK should be part of Europe/part of a European union/part of a free trade area/return to Little england. The words will be isolated, analysed, headlined and voted upon. The good of all is irrelevant.

Devolving power in order to involve citizens is another central theme of the book. Citizens not subjects, us UK people beneath the Monarchy take note. The authors have embarked on a mission to find the best of both systems (democratic and meritocratic) and it is proving to be an engrossing read. It is all about happiness. Whilst I have always sided with Plato on this matter, I am enjoying the straight fight between the consumer's immediate gratification verses everybody's well being.


1 February. I've just past reading the section on the authors' preferred method of governance. Layers of bureaucracy going back to the citizen. Not one word about salaries. It is a middle-class order form for office safety. Middle-class gratification. Plato had it right when he stated that representatives should be unpaid and do the job because they wish to. The authors even have the nerve to suggest workfare but not the government's obligation to provide equal employment opportunities for all. Jobs for everyone. I look forward to the final chapters.

14 February. Finished reading the book. Very impressed with the articulation of a Federal Europe. The penultimate chapter entitled: 'Europe (Political Union and the Democratic Deficit)' should be posted or emailed to all British homes. Now I understand the position of the European Commission and the position of the European Parliament. The distance between the two defines the 'democratic deficit.' Absolutely fascinating to read how a Federal centre would take on nation debts that now constitute the euro crises. Like the USA took on state debts incurred during the American Revolution. Win, win, as they say. Diversity is strength. Unity works. Five stars.
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on 2 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a decent enough stab and trying to make sense of the current world order and charting a sustainable political and economic future out of it, but it's main drawback is that it relentlessly tries to do this from a centrist point of view and seems to think consensus through some 'middle way' is possible.

Perhaps it is....maybe this middle/third way is more than a myth and humans will muddle through more and more by embracing it, but world history and current trends don't really support that ideal. Meritocracy whether it is Chinese or Californian in flavour is not what it professes to be in practise and liberal democracy is not what it posts on it's façade. The underlying hegemonic force in the world now is Capital and it's form of globalisation and putting social democratic, supposedly 'consensual' sticking plasters on it just isn't going to work, because we as a society [and planet], can no longer have our cake and eat it.

A reasonable enough read though and worth a look, if only to remind yourself how far away from true voices of change we really are.
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on 30 January 2013
Nicolas Berggruen is a successful businessman with a sincere interest to solve political problems and Nathan Gardens is the editor of several newspapers in California with the same interest. Berggruen has established an institute for improving political governance with a council of 86 prominent leaders from government business and academics. The authors present ideas on how political governance can be improved at the level of the Western Democracies, China, the G20, the European Union and the State of California. Their ideas are most advanced about California where Berggruen organized the "Long Think Committee" with a budget of $2O million to prepare a plan to solve the problems.
The description about the California problems is fascinating. It illustrates perfectly poor governance. It gives an excellent description of the deadlock as a result of special interest groups. The state government cannot change anything without having to face a campaign financed with at least a hundred million dollars of one of the many special interest groups. They also describe how the State Government being unable to get any plans approved decided to hold referendums and let the people decide. They should have recognized that Vex Populi (Voice of the people) is not necessarily Vox Dei (the Voice of God). Not surprisingly the voters voted for tax reductions and improved public safety, with the result that the State spends more on prisons than on education and that the courts have forced the government to free prisoners because of unacceptable overcrowding in the prisons. It is the ultimate example of political gridlock.
The plan for California illustrates how the principles in the other chapters can be applied and will be tested. I can only present some highlights, you need to read the book to get a complete picture. One of the objectives is to reduce the influence of special interest groups. It is therefore proposed to establish a "Citizens council for Government accountability" with 13 members with as tasks to evaluate the performance of state government, promote long-term priorities about excellence in education, the environment, infrastructure and fiscal health. Their term would for six years, nine would be appointed by the governor and four by the sates Assembly (parliament) and Senate. They would evaluate proposals and initiatives of the government and of the Assembly and take initiatives on their own presented in referendums. This idea also applies a second principle to reduce the direct influence of voters that tend only to think short term. That is why the members are appointed and a six-year term. Another principle is: |to devolve, involve, and decision - division", that is application of the "subsidiary" principle. The plan is to move decision making from the state level to localities about for example pubic safety and infrastructure. The plan will be presented to the public at large for approval in the near future. Ideas based on similar principles are presented for the G20 and the European Union.
The authors also make recommendation for China that includes installing the "Rule of law". "Rule of law" includes the establishment of a Supreme Court that is independent of and not under the control of the Communist Party.
They also refer to the merits of the ideas of Confucius. One of Confucius ideas was that a virtuous ruler would by his example make the people ruled also virtuous, which is a nice idea but not practical. I therefore recommend to study also Mo Tzu (470-392BC), the first "State Consequentialist" philosopher and Fei Tzu (281-233 BC), the first "Legalist" philosopher that both severely criticized Confucius ideas and that influenced Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping policies. Fukuyama in his "Origins of political order" devotes 90 pages to describing the ups and downs of Chinese political governance, that includes the judgment, "Confucianism is an intensely backward looking doctrine that roots (bases) legitimacy in ancient practices."
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on 14 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Effective governance is an increasingly important issue (some would say it's THE most important) in a world currently at war with itself (both literally - in some areas of Asia/Africa - and metaphorically).

The authors of this work contend that we require political systems that combine accountability and a meritocracy to succeed globally and that we currently have `consumer democracies' rendering the West totally dysfunctional. And, among other vital questions, it ponders what conflicts may thus occur with the emerging superpowers of the East.

Maybe a finer mind than mine can point out inaccuracies and flaws in this work, but I found it easy to read and its viewpoint easy to understand, and this to me indicates clarity of expression.

Normally I distrust books that have more than one author, but I'm prepared to accept this state of affairs when it comes to political and/or economic works. So hats off to the two guys that produced this fairly small, yet very important work that has drawn almost universal praise.

This is just the latest in a range of intellectually stimulating and handsomely produced volumes from Polity. Long may they continue in their quest to bring intelligent reading material to the masses!
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on 5 August 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
At first, I thought this would be a challenging read. But I was very wrong.

The author asks some important questions and forces you to think.
The Western world and the Eastern world could do well to learn from each other, but stubborn is a strong word.

Interesting book, definitely recommended.
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on 17 February 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is published by the Berggruen Institue, a private think tank and is the result of its deliberations. Fukiyama famously proclaimed the end of history with the triumph of liberal democracy, a claim he has subsequently withdrawn. The seeming deadlock in American politics, the failure of democracy in the Middle East and the sucess of China's economy necessitates a rethink which is the subject of this book. It starts by contrasting democracy in America with Mandarin Meritocracy in China and then considers California, the G20, and the EU with the intention of suggesting a middle Way between East and West with a view to devolving power, involving citizens and deligating decision making. The book has attracted wide praise from a broad range of people and is a must read for all concerned with the contemporary world.
Rating 5 out of 5.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book looks at the american political system, the failure of democracy in the Middle East and why China needs to look at changing its own system.
When you compare the difference between 'western democracy' and the system of Meritocracy this book tries to draw comparison and differences. It does do well but at times I found the book a little too heavy however it is informative. Something aimed at interested enthusiasts or academics for sure.
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on 18 May 2013
The book is neat and clear in respect of the way government, private sector and politics are run around the world. I like so much that I forward it as a contribution to Juan Carlos Navarro, candidate to presidency of the Republic of Panamá.
I also bought a copy for my daughter that is studying economics in Czech Republic. Her comments were: “I feel brighter after reading this book”.
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on 24 October 2015
Excellent analysis of the chaos of Western democracy to-day and the weaknesses also of present Chinese meritocracy. Interesting ideas for what would make the ideal form of governance which would be, roughly, a combination of the two retaining power ultimate power of the people who would be guided by informed management. All written in a very readable manner and without being too long.
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on 24 January 2013
A nice discussion on a high and mostly theoretic level but many historical and practical cases included as well.
The conclusion that current systems need a fix or critical changes.
Reports many systemic shortfalls which challenge local govts. in the global world.
Introducing the Swiss direct democracy would have really added to the explanation power of this book.
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