News / Americas

Opinion: Traditional Power in Decline

Pamela Dockins
What do Syria's crisis, Europe's economic woes and global warming have in common?

Moises Naim, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the answer is simple.

"All three are events that we need to stop," said Naim. But, "no one has the power to stop them."

On VOA's Press Conference USA, Naim said globalization and a deeper interdependence have caused the number of problems and challenges that cannot be solved by any one country to soar.

And, he said, the f," resulting in a decay of power.

Naim describes this phenomenon in his new book, "The End of Power."  A former trade and industry minister for Venezuela, Naim said from battlefields to boardrooms, "being in charge isn't what it used to be" when it comes to making things happen.

Across the globe, he said, well-established governments and corporations are being upended by "micropowers," such as fringe political groups, insurgents or innovative start-up companies.

Naim said historically, powerful individuals or institutions had been able to protect or shield themselves from these rivals or challengers.

"Those barriers are now easier to overwhelm, easier to circumvent or undermine," he said.

As an example, he cited Eastman Kodak, a once-dominate U.S. photographic products company that filed for bankruptcy last year.  He said Kodak had lost ground to online start-ups like Instagram, a photo-sharing and social networking service.

Researchers Diego Comin and Thomas Philippon reached the same, broad, conclusion in their New York University study, The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences.

"The expected length of leadership of any particular firm has declined dramatically," they said, primarily because of increased competition in product markets.

Naim said increased competition has benefited consumers by giving them more choices and options.

However, he said it also had a downside - a dilution of power, especially in terms of governments.

A lot of groups, or in some cases individuals, now had enough power to block the initiatives of others, but no one had enough power to push through an agenda, Naim said.  He cited "Washington gridlock" as an example of what he said had become a global trend.

Naim said the power shift is playing out differently in some parts of the world.

In China, he said, a profusion of products and wealth has resulted in a more informed and better connected population.  Naim said the government, which in his view has been "stagnant," will have to adjust to address the needs of China’s dramatically transformed population.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Naim said, "life for autocrats has become deeply uncomfortable" as populations become better connected through social media.

Author Joseph Nye offers a similar world view on government authority in his book, The Future of Power.

"The problem for all states in the 21st century is that there are more and more things outside the control of even the most powerful states, because of the diffusion of power from states to non-state actors," said Nye.

Naim said that while it may not be possible to stop the erosion of traditional power, there are things that can be done to lessen the negative effects.

In his book, Naim suggests working to restore trust in institutions, which, he said, will result in more effective collaboration.

He also said traditional political parties should work to broaden their appeal and platforms - especially to young voters - so that potential supporters are not swayed by fringe groups.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexico Police Investigate Police Link in Shooting Deaths of US Siblings

Deaths of Erica Alvarado Rivera, her brothers and boyfriend as they traveled to visit family is third high-profile case in recent months that links security forces to extrajudicial killings
More

Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting

Mario Diaz-Balart said ALBA, which chaired the meeting, 'was created solely to oppose US interests' and US participation was 'ludicrous'
More

US Coast Guard Rescues 33 Cubans at Sea

Because the overloaded boat did not make landfall, those rescued will be returned to Cuba
More

Western Experts Increasingly Fear Lone Wolf Terror Attacks

Slaying and assault on Canada's parliament building was followed by a hatchet attack on two New York City policemen
More

Search Underway at New Site in Mexico Missing Students Case

This week marked one month since the students went missing after clashing with police in mysterious circumstances
More

Public Transport in Latin America, Asia Most Dangerous for Women

Thousands of women and gender experts were questioned to create the listing
More