Tag Archives: TEDtalk

TED Talk – Shifts in Global Power

For the past few months, I have been submersed in thinking about global trends in the world and how the world may look over the coming few years and even decades. On that journey, I was lucky enough to come across this fascinating talk from Paddy Ashdown. (Watch it first).

I think the three ways that he identifies are very powerful. The classic lateral shift in power is definitely taking place. However, I do not think anyone knows with any certainty how the world will actually end up. Will we see two powers? Four? When will China become the world’s largest economy? When will India? Will the per capita gaps ever narrow completely? Many questions, few answers, but we can be sure that the world will not continue as it has recently.

On the vertical dimension, I think former Ambassador Ashdown may be missing some of the changes. While I would agree that power is shifting away from the nation state, I think that it is moving in two directions. Global institutions are gaining power in the upward direction, but I think that individuals and subnational organizations are also gaining power. There has been much talk of the rise of the public private partnership to solve challenges facing states, which directly empowers companies, and cities and smaller groups of individuals are often taking a lead on policy (New York has been doing quite a lot). And while we need to have international regulation as so much more happens outside of state boundaries, current global institutions have not had a high success rate at changing behavior so far. The state is getting squeezed from both sides.

The last point around interdependency has been everywhere the last few years post-financial crisis, but it begs repeating. For so long, we operated under the premise of mutually assured destruction – a concept that is frightening but turned out to work pretty well in keeping the powers in check. As we become more interdependent in other ways, including more specialization in who supplies energy, food, manufacturing, and ideas, does a similar concept also occur in trade and economics? That could be a brighter though, as it would suggest stability as an imperative on all fronts. We will see.

However accurate he is in identifying the axes of change, I also like that he is not prescriptive. There is no over promising of what the future might look like, when we would be wrong to say we were anything but uncertain.

On a complete side note, I think that Ashdown’s rhetorical skills are simply superb. He has a command of language, and really makes this talk spellbinding. At some point, I would like to also be able to speak at length in such an eloquent fashion.

Food for thought.

TED Talk – Reclaiming the Republic

Reclaiming the Republic

The attached TED talk was recently sent to me, and I think it warranted sharing – with some comments of course.

Lawrence does a good job of outlining the problem. Money in politics is akin to a cancer – candidates are in an arms race reaching ever deeper into the pockets of the very few to bankroll their candidacies. This of course gives undue political power to those interests, which increasingly control the electoral landscape. Some of the statistics are absolutely staggering. 132 people…

I think he is right, especially in the perspective that everyone knows that this is a problem. He is certainly not the first one to point out the symbiotic relationship between Capitol Hill and K Street, to the determent of the taxpayer as well as to pragmatic and effective policy. There are so many instances where the way that our electoral process is structured leads to sub-optimal outcomes – i.e. corn subsidies are unlikely to end anytime soon due to Iowa’s place at the top of the hierarchy of primary elections. Money in politics is one of the most unsightly issues that is so obviously one of the “first issues” that prevent real reform – in either direction, left or right.

However, I think his overview of potential solutions is terribly lacking in specifics and much oversimplified. Campaign finance reform has always been the the political “boondoggle” for many of the reasons mentioned in the TED talk, above all that the number one exit opportunity for a legislator is to join one of the big lobbying firms. However, it is a web of legislation, law, ethics, freedom, and public opinion – all of which need to be navigated to make any progress.

Dollars are one currency that we have typically regarded as political speech. Unless we reclassify speech as not including money, how can we limit it? If we limit dollars now, what does that mean for potential alternative “political currencies” down the road? Will someone with twitter follower numbers over a certain amount be subject to campaign law restrictions because of undue influence on the electoral process? The legal questions are much more complex than he seems to let on.

While it is not an easy problem to solve, it should definitely be a priority. I’m going to put some more thought into this one.