Friday Water Cooler

For Seventh Consecutive Year, Democracy Loses Ground
For the seventh straight year, more nations saw freedom on the decline, according to a new report from Freedom House. The analysis shows that in 2012 as many as 27 countries witnessed a significant decline in freedom, while 16 experienced “notable gains.”

Furthermore, the report data reflected a stepped-up campaign of persecution by dictators that specifically targeted civil society organizations and independent media.

Among the worst countries in terms of freedom in 2012 were:

Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as the territories of Tibet and Western Sahara.

Can Centrists Survive In Today’s Political Climate?
In most of the developed world, the political systems have become more polarized with the right and the left emerging as more dominant forces. Ironically, when it comes to the policies that are actually implemented, they usually include components from both sides. So, why have third parties and individuals with more centrist views failed to gain traction? The Brookings Institution’s Kemal Dervis believes a major reason is the low participation rate of the population in the political process.

“Active party members hold more ideologically consistent views – and hold them more strongly – than most of those who are politically less engaged, giving activists disproportionate influence in the political process. After all, more nuanced ideas and policy proposals are relatively difficult to propagate effectively enough to generate broad and enthusiastic popular support,” writes Dervis.

Can Emerging Markets Withstand A Financial Crisis?
The strong economic growth of emerging market nations might be envied by European nations and the US, but should their productivity be viewed with caution?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of a new book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder believes so. As reported by Reuters’ Ian Bremmer, Taleb says fragility in the political and social systems within emerging market nations raises questions about their long-term stability.

Whether it is mass protests continue in China or riots stemming from police actions against union members in South Africa, Bremmer asks, “Can emerging markets not just withstand crisis, but use it to change for the better? Can they withstand it at all?”

He adds that “in Europe, where a financial crisis has helped strengthen the European Union, largely because Europe revealed itself to be antifragile.”




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