Editor's note: Ravi Agrawal is the Senior Producer of "Fareed Zakaria GPS." You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
I was browsing through the website of the magazine Foreign Affairs when I came across an article titled “The Present Crisis in Democracy.” The author describes dire times: a world “in a state of hysteria” where an “intoxication of unusual prosperity” was followed by “the harassing uncertainty of the depression.”
From finance boom to housing bust, it reads like a description of inept governance in the last decade.
But it’s not. The article was written in 1934 by Lawrence Lowell, a former president of Harvard University and frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs.
It turns out we’ve always talked about a “crisis in democracy.” A Google search of the phrase throws up articles written not only from the past few years, but from almost every decade of the 20th century.
Editor's note: Ravi Agrawal is the Senior Producer of "Fareed Zakaria GPS." You can follow him on Twitter @RaviAgrawalCNN
The winners of last Sunday’s elections in Greece and France would do well to consider “Juncker’s Curse.” It’s named after the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, who famously quipped: “We all know what to do. But we don’t know how to get reelected once we've done it.”
Juncker would know. He’s the longest serving democratically elected head of government in the world.
But it raises an interesting, philosophical question. Is populism our greatest obstacle to growth and success? Are world leaders really just sitting on solutions to all our problems – but they can’t implement them because of us?
In other words, are people the problem, and not politicians? FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, TIME.com
Two years ago, Barack Obama signed into law the most comprehensive reform of American health care since Medicare. Most of its provisions haven’t been implemented yet. But the debate about it rages on at every level. Twenty-six states have filed legal challenges to it. And this month the Supreme Court will hear arguments about its constitutionality.
The centerpiece of the case against Obamacare is the requirement that everyone buy some kind of health insurance or face stiff penalties - the so-called individual mandate. It is a way of moving toward universal coverage without a government-run or single-payer system. It might surprise Americans to learn that another advanced industrial country, one with a totally private health care system, made precisely the same choice nearly 20 years ago: Switzerland. The lessons from Switzerland and other countries can’t resolve the constitutional issues, but they suggest the inevitability of some version of Obamacare.
Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy. It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.
Upsetting both conventional wisdom and the party establishment’s preferred narrative, New Gingrich’s big win in South Carolina’s Republican primary last weekend has dramatically energized the GOP race. While it suddenly feels like a two-man fight between Gingrich and the previously presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, in truth, the party’s three main wings (country-club moderates, Reaganites, and the farthest-right social conservatives and libertarians) remain deeply divided, suggesting a lengthy and drawn-out battle across the remaining GOP primaries. Taking that as our starting-point assumption, Wikistrat polled its global network of strategists for scenarios as to how this might unfold and what it could mean for the November general election.
1) True bell-weather Florida delivers a quick knockout next Tuesday
All the primaries so far have been predictably weird: sanctimonious Iowa narrowly going for Rick Santorum, independent New Hampshire favoring favorite son Romney, and the forever insurgent South Carolina jump-starting Gingrich. None of these states carry the representative cross-section of electoral pillar Florida, where the crucial Hispanic vote will be felt most clearly for the first time. Since all sides know it’s a real race now, the four remaining candidates (Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Ron Paul) are all placing maximum bets on the Sunshine State and its notoriously volatile electorate. If Newt wins, the party establishment will be sorely tempted to dump Romney and talk of a late entrant will once again spike. But if Romney can pull it off, he’ll snuff out the last serious threat to his preferred storyline. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
Despite a sound annual GDP growth rate of around 9%, China's economy encountered serious problems in 2011: inflation, soaring house prices, slowdowns in investment, exports and overall economic growth and continued growth of income inequality. While the much-feared 'hard landing' has not materialized, the structural distortions that underlie these symptoms persist, and the sustainability of China's growth model remains in doubt. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Joseph Nye is a former US assistant secretary of defense, is a professor at Harvard and the author of The Future of Power. For more on Nye, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Joseph Nye.
By Joseph Nye, Project Syndicate
A leadership transition is scheduled in two major autocracies in 2012. Neither is likely to be a surprise. Xi Jinping is set to replace Hu Jintao as President in China, and, in Russia, Vladimir Putin has announced that he will reclaim the presidency from Dmitri Medvedev. Among the world’s democracies, political outcomes this year are less predictable. Nicolas Sarkozy faces a difficult presidential re-election campaign in France, as does Barack Obama in the United States.
In the 2008 US presidential election, the press told us that Obama won because he had “charisma” – the special power to inspire fascination and loyalty. If so, how can his re-election be uncertain just four years later? Can a leader lose his or her charisma? Does charisma originate in the individual, in that person’s followers, or in the situation? Academic research points to all three. FULL POST
An indefinite national strike over the removal of fuel subsidies started in Nigeria today. The strike highlights the political difficulties governments in several countries face as they try to reform or withdraw fuel subsidies. Such subsidies are used widely, mostly in developing countries.
The worldwide cost of fuel subsidies for oil amounted to about $190 billion in 2010, up from around $120 billion in 2009, according to International Energy Agency (IEA) data. According to the agency, expenditure on all fossil fuel subsidies could rise to $660 billion in 2020, from $409 billion in 2010.
Subsidies are generally heaviest in oil-producing countries, despite the effect this has on their finances, rather than in growing Asian oil consumers such as India and China. This has helped make the Middle East a key center of oil demand growth, in addition to its role as the world's most important oil-producing region. For example, in November 2010 Saudi diesel was sold just under 7 cents a liter, compared with 84 cents a liter in the United States.
By Stephanie Busari, CNN
Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, ended oil subsidies on New Year's Day that had kept gasoline prices artificially low.
The cost of a liter of gasoline shot up from 65 naira (40 cents) to at least 141 naira (86 cents) virtually overnight.
Furious Nigerians have since taken to the streets, staging 'Occupy Nigeria' protests and mass demonstrations across the country.
Police have responded forcefully with many arrests. At least one person has died amid the unrest: 23-year-old student Muyideen Mustafa was allegedly hit by a police bullet in Ilorin, Kwara State, on January 03.
A police spokesman in Kano State also confirmed to CNN that they fired teargas into a crowd staging a midnight protest last weeka in order to disperse a largely peaceful demonstration by Muslims and Christians.
Read more here.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy commander Admiral Ali Fadavi announced yesterday that the country will hold a new exercise in the Strait of Hormuz in February. The planned war games will follow an exercise earlier this week in which Iran launched three anti-ship missiles. The firing of a handful of missiles for media effect is not necessarily significant - but the threat they represent is. Their overt use was intended as a signal to Washington that U.S. naval assets cannot operate with impunity near Iranian waters, especially in the event (however unlikely) that Tehran carries out its threat to close the Strait. FULL POST
Editor's Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
The U.S. State Department said yesterday that Iran had exhibited "irrational behaviour" by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world oil. The comment follows a warning this week from Iran’s First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi that "not a single drop" of oil would pass through the Strait if the West imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. His statement unsettled oil markets, raised tensions in the Persian Gulf and sparked a war of words with Washington. The episode raises questions about how far a sustained Western-led sanctions regime can be taken before Iran retaliates.
Oil is vital to Iran's economy, providing some 80% of its hard currency earnings and more than 50% of its fiscal revenues. Moreover, the majority of Iran's 2.2 million barrels per day of exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Shutting down the Strait would therefore inflict serious damage on an economy already reeling from international sanctions, mismanagement, corruption and sluggish growth.
The overriding importance of oil exports to Iran’s economy suggests that only desperate circumstances would lead Iran to attempt to close the Strait. While Iran's economy has been significantly hindered by the tightening of sanctions, the authorities are keen to resist the additional pressure as long as it remains at a manageable level. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: this is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
Some 80,000 Russians took to the streets of Moscow on December 24, calling for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down and the December 4 parliamentary elections to be rerun fairly. There were a larger number of demonstrators than at a similar gathering on December 10 on Bolotnaya Square - but even more importantly, their demographic and political diversity indicated that the rally gathered support well beyond the 'Facebook generation.' FULL POST
By Tim Lister, CNN
It is just 34 miles (55 kilometers) wide and dotted with islands and rocky outcrops, a channel that links the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean. Like many marine "chokepoints," the Strait of Hormuz has long commanded the attention of empires and their navies.
And in recent decades it has become even more critical: one-third of the oil carried by sea passes through Hormuz - that's some 15 million barrels every day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. FULL POST
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