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THE most striking thing about the founders of modern democracy such as James Madison and John Stuart Mill is how hard-headed they were. They regarded democracy as a powerful but imperfect mechanism: something that needed to be designed carefully, in order to harness human creativity but also to check human perversity, and then kept in good working order, constantly oiled, adjusted and worked upon. The need for hard-headedness is particularly pressing when establishing a nascent democracy. Robust constitutions not only promote long-term stability, reducing the likelihood that disgruntled minorities will take against the regime. Foreign leaders should be more willing to speak out when rulers engage in such illiberal behaviour, even if a majority supports it. Video Democracy: A view from Cairo Even those lucky enough to live in mature democracies need to pay close attention to the architecture of their political systems. But reformers need to be much more ambitious. Related:  New Economic system/trends and new paradigmsszkriniaDemocracy

Amsterdam embraces sharing economy The City of Amsterdam has made an important step towards the emerging sharing economy. Alderperson Ossel officialy announced the city will continue to allow residents renting out their own property to city visitors through platforms like Airbnb. With this resolution, Amsterdam is simultaneously moving further towards being a ‘Sharing City.’ ‘Occasional rental of privately-owned property as an additional form of accommodation dovetails with a hospitable Amsterdam’, Alderperson Ossel states. Not only is this a significant gesture to tourists visiting the city. It’s a clear sign that Amsterdam actively embraces the rapidly rising sharing economy. ‘We would like to congratulate Amsterdam with this promising decision’, says Harmen van Sprang, co-founder of shareNL. Will this news put Amsterdam on the map as a global forerunner of the sharing economy? ‘We are pleasantly surprised by all the attention for the sharing economy in the Netherlands’, Harmen says. About shareNL

Want to live well? You are what you eat. You’re also how you feel, how you exercise, how you sleep, how you handle money, how you relate to people, and what you value. If you’re worried about your well-being, Harvard experts across an array of fields have some advice: Eat thoughtfully, exercise often, raise your children well, stash a few bucks away, and stop thinking it’s all about you. People make choices every day that affect their health and happiness, but life’s complexity and its bewildering array of options — not to mention the species-wide lack of willpower — can make living well a challenge. Vast research conducted across Harvard’s myriad Schools and programs continues to help push back the boundaries of understanding about human health and behavior, enhancing the knowledge of what makes people ill and what makes them well, what makes them wilt and what makes them prosper. Eating healthy includes watching quality and quantity, Willett said. 1. 2. 3. Norton and Weissbourd may be onto something.

Comments on Deepening democracy in South Asia: Off square one SOUTH Asians, nearly a quarter of the world’s population, are no pushovers. Some 1.6 billion people—the entire region—now live within civilian-led democracies, however imperfect. South Asian voters are ever readier to eject out-of-favour rulers. In the year to May 2014, governments in six out of seven South Asian countries are likely to change. In May voters ejected Pakistan’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, the first time an elected government finished a full term and passed power to another. Two other South Asian countries held national elections this week. But at least a run-off on November 16th produced an elected president, after various failed attempts. Yet democrats have some things to cheer. Another South Asian country stumbling towards full democracy has more to celebrate. But, on November 19th, polls at last went ahead (see picture). They failed. Democratic progress that is both awkward and partial applies to much of South Asia.

Capitalism 4.0 & Neuroplasticity of the Collective Brain | Otto Scharmer I have just returned from an interesting experience in Washington. D.C.: a panel discussion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a leading neo-conservative think tank responsible for much of the intellectual core and agenda of the Bush-Cheney administration. So why would I go to a place that co-engineered much of the thinking that led us into the disaster of the Iraq War and the financial crisis of 2008, costing us trillions of dollars, and causing massive waves of human suffering across cultures? Three reasons. One, I was invited by my friends at the Mind and Life Institute, which hosted one of the panels at the event. That being said, I don't agree with many of the official AEI talking points. But what's missing? So my first takeaway is this: Traditional right-left polarization keeps the political discourse locked into false dichotomies of the past. Searching for Capitalism 4.0 Neuroplasticity of the Collective Brain

Democratic Governance 2030 “Democratic governance will thrive in Asia, once Asian narratives – myths and metaphors – are used to provide support and give meaning to it.” “Democratic governance in 2030 will be radically different from how we see it today. We need new lenses to see the future.” “Democratic governance will keep on changing as new technologies, demographic shifts and geopolitical transitions challenge reality – prepare for flux!” Organized by Oxfam, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) and the Lew Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore), with support of the Rockefeller Foundation, these and other perspectives were suggested at a two-day forum in Bangkok on Visions of Democratic Governance in Asia 2030. And what did they wish? Five powerful visions of the future emerged. The second group took inclusion even more seriously. The third group agreed with inclusion, but wished to add the reality of the environment. The fourth group agreed with the others but added the power of the digital citizen.

The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it | David Graeber Back in the 1930s, Henry Ford is supposed to have remarked that it was a good thing that most Americans didn't know how banking really works, because if they did, "there'd be a revolution before tomorrow morning". Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. To get a sense of how radical the Bank's new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. It's this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say "there's just not enough money" to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending "crowding out" the private sector. In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it's backwards. Why did the Bank of England suddenly admit all this? But politically, this is taking an enormous risk.

The World Today - Why China won't lead the Asian Century 01/07/2014 ELEANOR HALL: For many of the world's leaders it is not a question of if but when China will replace the US as the global superpower. But a group of business experts who travel regularly to China say the country's government is holding it back. They've released a book arguing why China won't lead. One of the authors is Dr Regina Abrami. She spoke to me earlier from Saigon in Vietnam: Dr Abrami, among many of the world's political and economic leaders, the question that is asked is not if, but when China will replace the US as the global leader in what's almost universally called the Asian Century, yet you and your colleagues argue that China won't lead. REGINA ABRAMI: In our recent book Can China Lead? ELEANOR HALL: Something intriguing that you point to in your book is that rise of China books were popular at the turn of the last century. ELEANOR HALL: And yet, you also say that the Chinese economic miracle is coming to an end. ELEANOR HALL: Just how severe is inequality in China?

A Relentless Widening of Disparity in Wealth What if inequality were to continue growing years or decades into the future? Say the richest 1 percent of the population amassed a quarter of the nation’s income, up from about a fifth today. What about half? To believe Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, this future is not just possible. In his bracing “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” which hit bookstores on Monday, Professor Piketty provides a fresh and sweeping analysis of the world’s economic history that puts into question many of our core beliefs about the organization of market economies. His most startling news is that the belief that inequality will eventually stabilize and subside on its own, a long-held tenet of free market capitalism, is wrong. It is possible to slow, or even reverse, the trend, if political leaders like President Obama, who proposed that income inequality was the “defining challenge of our time,” really push. Painstakingly assembling data from tax returns, Mr. Mr. Mr. It didn’t.

Limits to China's authoritarian development The recent slowdown in China's economic growth rate has highlighted the limits in the country's authoritarian growth model. Political change will be necessary for China to exploit its full potential. Back in the 1970s, in the midst of China's atrocious Cultural Revolution, no-one imagined that four decades later it could be on the verge of becoming the world's biggest economy. Deng Xiaoping had the rare wisdom to know that the future of China and the survival of the Communist Party depended on developing a strong economy. And he could also see that a more market-oriented oriented economy was the path towards a stronger economy. Deng's wisdom foreshadowed the research of Daron Acemoglu and James A. China's economic reforms may not live up to full ideals of "inclusive economic institutions". China's economic development has been driven by an inclusive approach in that much of Chinese society has participated in and contributed to this development.

To Touch Eternity | Eruditio Abstract Has humanity’s progress been hijacked by a pervasive scientific rationalism that trades spirituality and communality for cold efficiency? If so, does this cultural meme promise anything more than sterile technological miracles that, while solving past problems, ambush our ability to imagine how we might avoid civilized society descending into the barbaric once again? Have we permitted economic growth, wealth creation and the financialisation of almost everything we cherish to become an all consuming obsession, superseding any higher moral purpose? This essay puts a case for curbing our sanctification of industrial economism by reinstating more compelling and empathic narratives as a keystone strategy for the future advancement and survival of the human family. As old age beckons, many things become clear. Solitude comes too – mostly unpredictably, yet always welcome. But serene empathy can also bring dissonance. “We have nobody to blame but ourselves. This was not the plan. 1.

The State of Democracy in Asia Mar 8, 2012 A lecture given at Colorado College by NED Senior Director Brian Joseph Introduction First, let me begin by thanking Professors Alberts and Takeshi, and the History, Asian Studies and Political Science departments for inviting me to speak here tonight. I owe my interest in and career to Colorado College and it’s great to be back. Soon after Eli and I settled on the subject for this evening’s lecture, I took off for a trip to Seoul, South Korea. In a nutshell, here’s the challenge: making sense of these four countries within the framework of tonight’s lecture, the State of Democracy in Asia: Until last summer, Burma ranked among the world’s least free countries, with thousands of political prisoners, a military government, armed insurgency, a controlled press, and battered opposition. The state of democracy in Asia 25 years ago When I entered college in 1987, there were three democracies in Asia – India, the Philippines and Japan. The state of democracy today Transition

John Cassidy: Is Surging Inequality Endemic to Capitalism? In the stately world of academic presses, it isn’t often that advance orders and publicity for a book prompt a publisher to push forward its publication date. But that’s what Belknap, an imprint of Harvard University Press, did for “Capital in the Twenty-first Century,” a sweeping account of rising inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty. Reviewing the French edition of Piketty’s book, which came out last year, Branko Milanovic, a former senior economist at the World Bank, called it “one of the watershed books in economic thinking.” The Economist said that it could change the way we think about the past two centuries of economic history. Certainly, no economics book in recent years has received this sort of attention. Months before its American publication date, which was switched from April to March, it was already the subject of lively online discussion among economists and other commentators. Part of Piketty’s motivation in returning home was cultural.

Southeast Asia Retreats From Democracy After decades of greater democratization, a new report says that democracy is in retreat throughout ASEAN. After nearly two decades of progress, democracy is now in retreat in Southeast Asia according to a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations. The working paper, written by CFR Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, Joshua Kurlantzick, argues that the significant democratic gains Southeast Asia made in the 1990s and 2000s have begun being rolled back over the last four years. Kurlantzick begins by noting that not too long ago Southeast Asia was championed by democracy advocates as a leading example for other regions to follow. While the region was largely autocratic throughout the Cold War, the first two decades of the post-Cold War era saw most countries in the region at least make greater progress towards democracy. Kurlantzick also points out that during this period there was a regional push toward democracy. The first four years of this decade has seen this trend reverse itself.