In his new book, The End of Power, former World Bank executive director Moises Naim argues that being in charge isn’t what it used to be.
“Power was once concentrated at the top and those who held it erected careful barriers to keep challengers away,” Naim says. “Today, insurgent forces dismantle those barriers more easily than ever, only to find that they themselves become vulnerable in the process.”
Naim’s thesis is certainly controversial when you consider the apparent growth in power of major global corporations, centralized governments like China’s and even the rise of Super PACs in American politics. But Naim argues that those in power are much less likely to stay there today vs. in prior generations. For example, a company in the top tier of its industry in 1980 only had a 20% chance of falling out of league tables; today, that risk has risen to 40%, he claims.
Contrary to popular belief, Naim explains that it’s not just the Internet and other technological innovations that are driving these trends -- it’s also the flow of goods and services in the global economy and the spread of democracy or, at least, the decline of authoritarian regimes. In 1977, autocrats ruled 89 countries; by 2011, the number had fallen to 22, according to Naim.
And while there are certainly benefits to the diffusion of power, Naim says there are also risks, as discussed in the accompanying video.
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