By Fareed Zakaria
We tend to think of dictators as all-powerful leaders who act with naked cruelty and impunity. Think of Bashar al Assad in Syria. Or, for a celluloid reminder, think of Sacha Baron Cohen as Gen. Admiral Aladeen, a North African despot.
But the film "The Dictator" — and our imagination of dictators — is getting outdated. The new dictator is more evolved and more attuned to how people think.
A new book highlights that trend. It's called "The Dictator's Learning Curve" by William Dobson.
Dictators have gotten smart, Dobson writes, to keep pace with changes in technology. Old-school oppressors like Mao, Pol Pot or Idi Amin could keep their atrocities relatively secret. That's not possible today. If a dictator tried to orchestrate a mass killing and keep it secret, he'd likely fail. It would end up on YouTube. FULL POST
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: 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.
America is in the midst of yet another long-term government deficit problem that we once thought we had licked in the go-go Nineties. Remember when we were going to retire the federal debt?
Just like back then, political candidates now regularly foam at the mouth about which “redundant” federal agencies they’d whack the minute they set foot inside the Beltway. This begs the question: What activities are inherently federal? FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
We all know there are no free lunches, but what about free rides?
Well, in Indonesia, thrill seekers and free loaders alike travel into Jakarta by riding on top of trains. And the authorities have been trying to curb the train-surfing scourge for decades.
Now they seem to have come up with a concrete solution. I mean that literally. The state-run rail system has installed concrete balls about the size of grapefruits above the rail tracks.
They call them goal "bola bola" or "goal balls," and the goal is to show fare beaters that it doesn't pay to be cheap.
But there's already been a glitch. It turns out officials made the chains too short leaving a gap of about 16 inches between the balls and the passing trains. They say they'll get on the ball soon.
Here's an excerpt from my column in today's Washington Post.
Over the past decade U.S. job gains were matched by job losses. Simply put, there was no net gain in jobs. During the George W. Bush years, job growth was almost entirely fueled by growth in government, health care and the massive boom in residential real estate. From 2001 to 2007, investment in equipment and software — the kinds of investments that boost productivity and create good jobs — declined 15 percent as a share of gross domestic product. The economy recovered after the recession of 2000, but the recovery was powered almost entirely by government spending, cheap credit and a real estate bubble.
In contrast, the current recovery, while anemic in terms of number of jobs created, is more broad-based and more durable. Business investment is rising, having boomed 18 percent since the end of 2009. Manufacturing has rebounded faster than other sectors, adding 334,000 jobs over the past two years. Exports are growing at an annualized rate of 16 percent, which means that U.S. exports should double earlier than 2014, the goal President Obama set in 2009. Labor productivity in the United States is now the highest among Group of 20 countries, and this boost means that unit labor costs in the United States have dropped more than in any G-20 country except Taiwan. FULL POST
Editor's Note:Allison Stanger is Russell Leng ’60 Professor of International Politics and Economics and Chair of the Political Science Department at Middlebury College Middlebury College. She is the author of One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy.
By Allison Stanger - Special to CNN
Former President Bill Clinton’s compelling new book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, just came out this week. Trust in government is at a record low of 15% and Congress’ approval rating has plummeted to single digits. Convincing voters that government is actually capable of once again serving ordinary Americans is a tough sell, even for a man of Clinton’s superhuman persuasive powers.
Both the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party Movements are skeptical of the claim that government can be smart when the political system has been captured by moneyed interests. In response, the Obama administration maintains that we can somehow restore America to greatness while tolerating politics as usual, even though candidate Obama once promised he would “change the way Washington works.” Small wonder the electorate is starting to tune out.
There is a better way. The crony capitalism that has fueled inequality and systematically undermined the social contract thrives in the shadows. Rather than railing at the rich, which many Americans have misinterpreted as mocking the American dream, the White House should instead refocus on the imperative of openness for democracy. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Last week, I wrote a TIME column, Complexity Equals Corruption, in which I argued that Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax-reform plan is not as crazy as many pundits make it out to be. I didn’t defend Cain’s specific policy proposals but rather their general thrust: The federal tax code is too complex and fundamentally corrupt.
But we all need to take a moment to remember that the inheritance tax was 55% before the George W. Bush tax cuts! I'm not suggesting anything that strange - just a reversion to the norm before the Bush tax cuts.
And yes, I would favor an exemption for the first couple of million dollars, which would means that the vast majority of small businesses would pay no estate tax at all.
Editor's Note: Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University, is the author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy. For more, visit Project Syndicate or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
By Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s birth. Friedman was one of the twentieth century’s leading economists, a Nobel Prize winner who made notable contributions to monetary policy and consumption theory. But he will be remembered primarily as the visionary who provided the intellectual firepower for free-market enthusiasts during the second half of the century, and as the éminence grise behind the dramatic shift in the economic policies that took place after 1980.
At a time when skepticism about markets ran rampant, Friedman explained in clear, accessible language that private enterprise is the foundation of economic prosperity. All successful economies are built on thrift, hard work, and individual initiative. He railed against government regulations that encumber entrepreneurship and restrict markets. What Adam Smith was to the eighteenth century, Milton Friedman was to the twentieth. FULL POST
Americans have divided opinions when asked to think broadly about the purpose of government. About as many Americans (35%) prefer an activist government that tries in every way to improve the lives of its citizens as prefer a government that provides only the most basic government functions (37%), with the rest placing themselves between these two positions. FULL POST
With mass graves in Lybia and tanks rolling through Syria, it's easy to underestimate the unrest we're reading about in India and China.
Afterall, activist Anna Hazare succeeded this week in getting the government in India to agree to an independent, anti-corruption body.
And in a rare and recent victory for protesters in China, the northeastern city of Dalian said they would shut down a chemical plant residents feared had been damaged in a storm.
People had had enough, but authorities appeared to take notice, listen and even take some action.
Unlike the Arab Spring, which is more focused on bringing governments down, India and China want the governments they already have to be better — or rather, to be free of corruption. FULL POST