June 19, 2018

Nonfiction: Dambisa Moyo’s Proposals for Saving Democracy

There are other problems as well. She muddles the concept of change versus rate of change, declaring global productivity to be on the decline, though what she means is that the rate of growth of global productivity has been waning.

In any book so crammed with facts and figures, small errors are bound to creep in. The United States and Europe together have many more than 10 cities with populations above one million. India, with its sparkling 7 percent growth rate, can hardly be considered a laggard nation (as Moyo declares three times). Lastly, there’s the occasional infelicitous phrase, like “the leaders of leading nations.”

Turning to politics, Moyo documents how trust in government has fallen as polarization and gridlock have risen. For this, she blames “short-termism.” Eager to win elections, politicians make decisions to maximize voter support rather than those that would do the most for long-term growth. Meanwhile, in Washington, gridlock has slowed action to a crawl.

It was not always thus and Moyo takes a valiant stab at explaining why. She cites the move in recent years toward more laissez-faire capitalism, the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, the emergence of social media and a shift in power toward corporations and wealthy philanthropists. Gerrymandering and an avalanche of political money, for both electoral campaigns and lobbying, are additional (and related) flaws.

These and other villains dance across her stage before Moyo unveils her proposed fixes, all designed to reform the American political system so that capitalism can flourish. They number 10, from the incontrovertible (getting money out of politics) to the incredible (imposing what amounts to literacy tests on would-be voters and weighting voting toward “the best-informed segment of the electorate”). Her other ideas include longer terms for elected officials coupled with term limits, less gerrymandering and mandatory voting. There are oddities as well, like restricting the ability of successor governments to modify long-term agreements entered into by their predecessors and setting minimum qualifications for officeholders.

Helpfully, Moyo includes as an appendix a chart showing how 14 leading countries rank in terms of her goals for reforming democracy. By her tally, unsteady Mexico ranks at the top (having achieved five of Moyo’s milestones) while Europe’s economic engine, Germany, ranks at the bottom, with a goose egg.

That may leave readers scratching their heads.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/books/review/dambisa-moyo-edge-of-chaos.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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