Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review: The End of Power by Moises Naim

The End of Power

Author: Moises Naim
Publisher: Basic Books
Date of Publication: March 5, 2013
Pages: 320

     This book is the first selection in Mark Zuckerberg's 2015 "Year of Books" Challenge.  It is a thought provoking and intriguing read.  The author has served as editor-in-chief of "Foreign Policy," trade minister for Venezuela and as executive director of the World Bank.  He has a grasp of how things work, or, as is more likely these days, how they don't work.

    The End of Power is like a Malcolm Gladwell book on steroids.  Naim takes a contrarian view of current power structures and backs this view up with charts, data and informed opinion.  The author feels that it is urgent for us to change the way we think and talk about power.

     He spends a great deal of time explaining what he calls the "More, Mobility and Mentality" revolution going on world wide.  First, there is more of everything: more people, more interest groups, more factions and more wealth.  Everyone is also more mobile.  He cites immigration statistics for multiple peoples and it does appear that populations are on the move at an unprecedented rate.  This is rapidly changing the demographics of communities and entire nations.   There is also an over-all more educated international populace which is acutely aware of trends, lifestyles and discrepancies.  All of this leads to more "players" in every power dynamic, be it the business world, education, politics or any other social system.  We live in a world where small start-up companies can challenge and usurp industry leaders in a very short time.  An educated and enraged group, spurred on by such recent technology such as social media,  can topple governments in the "Arab Spring."  Fraction groups such as the Tea Party can control an established political party.  This creates an atmosphere where power dissipates and no one has control.  Naim uses the term "vetocracy" to describe the gridlock in the United States and other nations where nothing gets done because power is so dissipated.

     The author does propose some solutions to this seeming conundrum of government paralysis.  The main way to restore order, he says, it to restore trust in government and our leaders.  He concludes:

"Restoring trust, reinventing political parties, finding new ways in which average citizens can meaningfully participate in the political process, creating new mechanisms of effective governance, limiting the worst impacts of checks and balances while averting  excessive concentrations of unaccountable power, and enhancing the capacity of nation-states to work together should be the central political goals of our time."

The End of Power is a challenging and frightening book.  It helps the reader understand some of the chaos we now live in and, by proposing some reasonable solutions gives at least some hope that we may arrive at a compromise between totalitarian control and anarchy.   

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