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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influential, Integrative, with Integrity, Avoids Three Core Topics
Here's what is really great about this book:

01) The authors are connected, admired, and conversant with the great minds of Silicon Valley (Eric Schmidt offers a very strong blurb) and even more importantly, this book both represents the best from those minds, and has clearly had as positive effect in getting this particular meme ("intelligent governance")...
Published 21 months ago by Robert David STEELE Vivas

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can East and West Come Together for Better Government?
"Intelligent governance['s]...chief aim is to seek a harmonious equilibrium in human affairs-between responsibility and personal choice, community and the individual, freedom and stability, well-being and well-behaving, humankind and nature, present and future-based on the wisdom of what has worked best when faced with the circumstances at hand."

Here in the...
Published 18 months ago by James J. Kane


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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Influential, Integrative, with Integrity, Avoids Three Core Topics, December 6, 2012
This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
Here's what is really great about this book:

01) The authors are connected, admired, and conversant with the great minds of Silicon Valley (Eric Schmidt offers a very strong blurb) and even more importantly, this book both represents the best from those minds, and has clearly had as positive effect in getting this particular meme ("intelligent governance") considered.

02) The authors force attention to a fundamental flawed premise in the West, that any form of democracy (even if corrupted beyond recognition) is preferable to any form of dictatorship (the authors refer to China as a mandarinate). As someone who grew up in Singapore and has the deepest admiration for Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and the professionalism of the Government of Singapore (it employed my step-mother from New Zealand for many years, ultimately as head of the Department of English), I am among the first to suggest that the West falls short, but I would point to Singapore and the Nordics and BENELUX as my preferred alternative, not just hybrid, but rooted in ethical evidence-based decision-making. I would also note that the West has actively supported 40 of 42 dictators for the last fifty years -- integrity is NOT a strong suit for our so-called Western democracies.

03) The book is strongest -- no doubt as the publisher and the authors intended -- in relation to the impact of social networks as feedback loops helpful to governments, whether democratic or mandarinate, that are capable of LISTENING. Chapter 4, "The New Challenges of Governmance," is certainly suitable as a stand-alone assigned reading. The authors are heavily reliant on David Brin (I am a fan of his) but distressingly oblivious to Howard Rheingold, Tom Atlee, Jim Rough, Harrison Owen, and a host of others that have spent -- primed by Stewart Brand -- decades thinking about deliberation and consensus-building. Having said that by way of balance, this chapter strikes me as the heart of the book, and it gets high marks for pointing out that Google and all other options today are not facilitative of deliberative dialog.

The focus on mega-cities is all too short, and I would be very glad to see the authors combine my critical comments on what is missing, with a deeper focus on mega-cities, and do a second book, but this time comparing a city in Brazil, one in China, one in India, and one one in Russia.

Chapter 5, "Intelligent Governance," is naturally central to the book,and the central paragraph may be this one: "In practice this means that decision-making power must be decentralized as much as possible to communities of active citizens in the domains of their competence. In short, it must devolve and involve beyond the old systems of a mass public choosing distant rulers in periodic one-person-one-vote elections where their voice doesn't matter. An `intelligent electorate' is part and parcel of a knowledgeable democracy."

In the absence of specifics (the ten high level threats, the twelve core policy areas) this chapter does not have a chance to really explore how intelligent goverance might work, for example, in relation to managing water across all boundaries. The authors assume that citizens will either be informed (educated), or will drop out and accept not having a voice. This is certainly worthy of greater discussion -- Will Durant and others emphasize that the ONE thing a legitimate government MUST do if it is to be effective is to EDUCATE their population. There is also the matter of collective intelligence, wisdom of the crowds, and dignity -- EVERYONE -- regardless of status or education -- has a vital contribution to make to any self-governance deliberation.

I realize as this point that the book merits a second and third reading -- I am not extracting all of the value on the first go-around. The section on "Scaling Governance" is for me the crux of the matter. The authors try to hard to "rationalize" who should participate where, in part because they do not seem to have an appreciation for Open Space and all the other opens. Certainly I agree with their point that "one size does not fit all," but I also believe that government will scale easily if it is truly transparent, truthful, and committed to trust as the intangible value that optimizes wealth creation.

Chapter 6, "Rebooting California's Dysfunctional Democracy," provides more substance for reflection. The most troubling section of this chapter is the author's focus on tax reform as opposed to tax transformation. I have been a champion of the Automated Payment Transaction (APT) Tax ever since Jim Turner taught be about it, and I am troubled right now that neither the President of the United States of America, nor the Speaker of the House, appear witting of this option, or if they are, their two parties favor the corruption inherent in the tax code (this is how Congress extorts money from special interests) so deeply that they would rather bankrupt the country than give up their one Golden Goose.

Chapter 7, "The G-20," is an eye-opener for me. I never expected to learn that China has offered to fund infrastructure projects in the USA, or to collaborate with the USA on clean energy and low carbon development. I never expected to learn that China has offered to finance California's high-speed train. This chapter humbles me, in part because I have mistakenly avoided reading on G-20, having assumed them to be a dysfunctional vestige of the old era. For me, this chapter "resets" a part of my mind.,

The balance of the book passes through Europe without mentioning Iceland that I can see, touches on the fact that our government processes have not kept pace with advances in science and technology and information technologies, but then glosses over the harder fact that we have created a Tower of Babel with the fragmentation of knowledge to the point that we now award PhDs to people who know everything about nothing and nothing at all about everything else.

There is a middle ground in this book that I find quite irritating, but am hesitant to make too much of. For example, the authors are eloquent in addressing the terrible consequences of the American form of consumerism without limits, but cannot bring themselves to call out the corporations (big tobacco, big sugar, big pharma, mega-agriculture) that have told lies and funded liars for decades, while the US federal, state, and local governments have looked away and tolerated an almost complete lack of ethics within the US business world, and particularly, at Matt Taibbi has documented so well, in the financial sector.

Now here are the three short-falls -- I would be very glad if the publisher encouraged the authors to do a second edition that adds an index after these three short-falls (and the attendant bibliography) are added.

Absolutely recommended at 5 stars, but misses going to the top 10% because as much as it focuses on intelligent governance, and most especially on achieving balance between a nurturing center and relatively autonomous elements of any federation, this book does not discuss three topics I consider essential:

01) The authors are reluctant to take on the absolute of corruption. If there is one thing that the Chinese and US governments share, it is the corruption, the pervasive corruption, that is at its worst under a one party monopoly or a two-party duopoly. Corruption means information pathologies, and information pathologies means that the whole system feedback loops are "dirty." Lies are sand in the gears of any complex delicate system of systems.

02) The authors are too focused on governance as the province of governments, when in fact hybrid forms of governance are emerging in which academic, civil society (including labor and religion), commerce, government of all types and levels, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit-what I call the "eight tribes" work out innovative and efficient ways of addressing challenges that are beyond the capabilities of top-down governments fond of operating on the basis of secrets, lies, and mandate instead of bottom-up buy-in. The author's use of hybrid (governments and social networks) is a corruption of the term best applied when ALL forms of information exploitation (the eight tribes) are deeply engaged in co-creation, co-governance, and co-accountability.

03) The authors offer no strategic analytic model, no whole systems approach to cause and effect, and no mention of true cost economics, which I personally believe is "root" for any governance, hybrid or otherwise, that wishes to be intelligent. The authors do great on process and feedback loops, but they do not offer up a sufficiently complex portrait of the eight tribes, raw information, or sense-making. Social media i 80% NOISE, 20% (at best) SENSE-MAKING. In other words, technology is not a substitute for thinking, and Facebook, Twitter, and Google are inherently NOT intelligent in the professional sense of the word, able to make sense and support decisions.

Evaluated as a provocative long essay in book form, this is a solid five. I myself am working on a proposed presentation to the next annual meeting of the public administration wallahs, and my tentative title is Public Governance in the 21st Century: New Rules, Hybrid Forms, One Constant -- The Public. In that paper, which may become a book but probably not, I contemplate the integration of education, intelligence (decision-support), and research, and bring together three sub-systems: Diversity from cognitive science and collection intelligence; Clarity from Whole Systems; and regulation from ecological or true cost economics. Public governance -- a hybrid of the eight tribes working together on the basis of shared information and a co-equal role in transparent collaborative sense-making, provides the integral holistic Integrity of the Commonwealth.

Below are ten other books that complement this book.

The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all
Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics (Manifesto Series)
Philosophy and the Social Problem: The Annotated Edition
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Environmental Security and Global Stability: Problems and Responses
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
The Leadership of Civilization Building: Administrative and civilization theory, Symbolic Dialogue, and Citizen Skills for the 21st Century
Critical Choices. The United Nations, Networks, and the Future of Global Governance
Global Public Policy: Governing Without Government?
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge

Robert David Steele
INTELLIGENCE FOR EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America We Have a Problem, February 4, 2013
This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
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You do not need to be a serious student of American politics to realize that our current system of government is no longer working. A recent poll showed that only 9% of American voters had a favorable impression of Congress.

As Edward Deming, the famous quality control expert, was fond of saying, "Don't blame the individual for problems with the system. Fix the system." As Americans, we need to accept that our political system is broken. Electing new leaders will not fix the system. Only by doing a radical overhaul of the system, can we expect to develop a workable system of governance. If we fail to change our system, our democracy will probably fail.

There are two major purposes of this book. The first is to explore the problems with our current system of governance. The book does an excellent job of recapping the history of democracy in the Western world in general and America in particular. It also traces the history of governance in the East and China in particular.

As part of the historical background, the authors point out the inherent flaws in our system of governance. "Where will California and America as a whole be two decades from now if we don't find a way for democratic societies to break out of the paralysis that is leading us from an era of promise to a trajectory of demise?"

While we have all been taught that one-person, one-vote was the democratic way, the politicians have failed to share the problems with this policy. First all votes are not equal. That is all voters are not equally informed about the issues and possible solutions. Different voters have different agendas - they are often seeking radically different goals with their vote. Further our two party system guarantees our elected officials will be beholden to the voters and the party line. Our elected officials will and have adopted a rather short term view of what is good for the people.

"One-person-one-vote democracy is in crisis today because short-term self-interest expressed by the individual voter, unfiltered by strong deliberative institutions that have eroded, does not collectively account to what is in the long term common interest for society." We have rigidity and grid-lock and things are only going to get worse as our society becomes more polarized.

The second part of the book introduces an idealized solutions to the problems facing our current system of governance. While the solutions seem to be well thought out, there is no suggestion about how these could be effectively introduced into America's system of governance. I have long known that our political system is broken. But the problem is those in power are simply not willing to give up their power. Those who would be required to support such a sweeping change would be giving up their position of power. Not likely to happen.

While this book shines the light on a very serious problem - the very survival of our political system - it is not light reading. It is probably targeted to the student of political science. The problem is well articulated. The problem with our current system is very real and the dangers are clear. The possible solution is very interesting - I just don't see our leaders embracing such a radical change.

This is certainly not light reading but for those concerned with the future of our country, it should be included on their reading list. We must start a discussion about overhauling our political system and this is an excellent start.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can East and West Come Together for Better Government?, February 25, 2013
This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
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"Intelligent governance['s]...chief aim is to seek a harmonious equilibrium in human affairs-between responsibility and personal choice, community and the individual, freedom and stability, well-being and well-behaving, humankind and nature, present and future-based on the wisdom of what has worked best when faced with the circumstances at hand."

Here in the United States a constant refrain, at least in the part of the country I live in, has been a growing frustration with political grid-lock at the national level yet is also a frustration that is shared across my country and the rest of the world as well. Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels of the Nicolas Berggruen Institute offer their proposal for ending this gridlock and providing not just the United States but China and elsewhere with essential and intelligent governance with a new book Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East.

Published in 2012 by Polity Press, Intelligent Governance is rooted in the authors' argument that "good governance must devolve power and involve citizens more meaningfully in ruling their communities while legitimizing the delegation of authority through decision-division to institutions that can capably manage the systemic links of integration." (Emphasis the authors.) And it is rooted in the reality of stagnation in the West and an emerging China in the east.

Divided into nine chapters, Intelligent Governance, starts with an outline of several key questions in chapter one then on to a comparison of what they call "America's Consumer Democracy verses China's Modern Mandarinate" which they define, respectively as "a one-person-one-vote political system aimed at creating the greatest space for personal freedom and free markets in order to best enable the pursuit of happiness-more or less defined in our time as meeting the demand for short-term immediate gratification of the consumer culture," and as one which "draws on the millennial heritage of pragmatic rule by learned and experienced elites-mandarins-based on merit, not by choice of the public."

Then moving into chapters three and four, which I found to me the most interesting chapters of the book, they discuss the `hybrid possibilities' between "liberal democratic democracy and meritocracy" as well as the challenges of governance in which the power of social media is clearly illustrated. Berggruen and and Gardels then enter into four chapters in which they lay out a template of intelligent governance and illustrate its application to the current state of affairs in California state government, the G-20, and Europe followed by a concluding chapter.

What I liked about the book was Berggruen and and Gardels' acknowledgment of the serious issue of gridlock and short-term perspective in American politics which has contributed to the gridlock. I was also very much interested in their assessment of what appears to be an emerging Chinese return to a Confucian base of governance instead of the China Communist Party's former emphasis on "class struggle." But if their `template' is for all governments then addressing the military as well as religiously led governments around the world needs to be a part of the discussion as well.

I rate this book a `good' read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very cogent and topical political analysis and program for Western democracies, February 24, 2013
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This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
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How's this for provocative?

Red China's dictatorship is more accountable to its citizens than Wall Street is to Americans. The governance system of the People's Republic of China may be the best equipped of any system to handle the challenges of the 21st century. Western-style liberal democracies have both too much and too little democracy.

Authors, Berggruen and Gardels, have written an actually very sober analysis of global governance focusing on the contrast between China's mandarinate and Western liberal democracies, especially that of the United States. They analyze contemporary global politics as being in a new stage of development which they refer to as Globalization 2.0.

That sees the United State's economic and political domination of the rest of the world coming to an end and the world developing into a multipolar one with no single dominating political and economic power and diffusion of economies and industries where geographies and public jurisdictions are becoming irrelevant. Increasing global integration, diversities, and economic diffusions require new political and technical capabilities.

The authors want to see improvement in world governance, primarily in the Western democracies, which are entering into a declining state of poor performance, political paralysis, declining legitimacy, and an increasing influence of participatory media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) which is making "mob rule" of a sort an increasingly crippling factor for good governance.

Unlike some theorists like Francis Fukuyama (The End of Ideology) who believe liberal democracies are the best and highest form of governance, they argue that democracy, faced with crises, is not necessarily self-correcting, nor is capitalism, as clearly proven by recent events.

They provide what they call a conceptual and practical guide to establish an intelligent governance for the 21st century which balances the virtues and best practices of both Western democracies and Eastern Confucianist-based governance systems. Western governments which still have a high level of legitimacy are failing to adapt to the new world pluralism and diversities primarily because they are short-term oriented, dominated by special interests, lack focus as a collective or nation, and are susceptible more than ever to essentially incompetent citizen rule.

China's blend of capitalism and Confucianism (with a touch of communism), on the other hand, has shown exceptional performance, is forward-looking, operates with a collective-national focus, and has an increasing (but still low) level of legitimacy. This is true even though its level of democratic participation is low, levels of corruption high, and attention to social and environmental consequences of growth inadequate.

There is increasing pressure on the Chinese meritocracy (mandarinate) to open up and devolve decision-making authority to more people and evolve into a rights-based society. However, because its performance as a government is so good and advanced it can take its time to adjust to pressures from citizens.

The United States and Western democracies, on the other hand, are not only not performing well but are likely permanently paralyzed by partisan politics and special interest activity leading to crushing governmental debt and irrational policymaking. America is now a "vetocracy" where entrenched special interests protect their own turf and trump any sense of a collective. The participatory media are making politics into a mob-like situation and sooner or later, legitimacy will erode.

Their remedy is to adopt new political structures in government which will stand above the partisanship and individualism which paralyzes it now. These new structures will be manned by prominent, respected Americans who will be isolated somewhat from the citizen mobs. Their positions will be long-term and based on merit and they will be appointed by an elite level of citizens.

The idea is to establish a mechanism for collective-national decision-making, long-term perspectives, planning, and reason-based governance (versus interest-based.) They believe a blend of long-term perspective and the competency of a meritocracy with a modest level of popular participation will provide a 21st-century level quality of governance and legitimacy.

They started to advance this concept in 2010 with the Thinking Long Committee in California. It is not yet more than a mere set of proposals and there is no certainty that it will come into being, much less replace traditional state government. But, it is a practical model of how to improve governmental performance while maintaining democratic legitimacy. Some other informal examples include the Congressional super committees of recent years and the appointment of technocrat (Super) Mario Monti in the EU to oversee the debt crisis there.

They analyze two other systems of governance and believe that each of them need to be reformulated along the lines of the Thinking Long Committee. The European Community and the G-20 structure of nations will benefit from strictures which allow for a meritocracy to rule societies while, at the same time, allowing the masses to have a certain level of political influence on lower levels and with local issues. Ideally, there will be a balanced and accountable meritocracy.

The comparative analysis of East versus West types of governance is very cogent and enlightening. The interest in intelligent government, i.e., which has a "brain" which can reason and make fact-based decisions for the collective is very defensible. The philosophical question is no longer autocracy versus democracy but good versus bad governance.

The thrust of this program, however, is top-down, high-level governance which will be the province of the existing elite? Capitalists? Benevolent mandarins?

That is unclear but the implication is that the lower classes will be mostly excluded except for a particular function of monitoring for accountability via the participatory media. The authors even conceive of weighted voting where some more interested citizens have greater voting influence than mere schmoes.

All of this is highly interesting and on the right track, arguably, to solve the dysfunctional governance in America, at least. However, there are at least two major problems: 1) Even if a benevolent class of enlightened meritocrats were to rule, why would they be expected to control the capitalist class of individuals, private-interested egos, and aggressive businessmen who dominate economics and politics now? Marx has already demonstrated that the political realm is subordinate to the economic one and capitalism deters to no political structure but the one which serves its own capitalist interests.

How is the collective sense to be maintained? There is no good answer to that.

2) Even more problematic is the transition from our traditional institutions to the new system of intelligent governance. How will this happen, especially in the absence of any cultural change of attitude or set of values? Selfishness and individualism are ingrained in the American system. No mere new political structure will survive that environment without having way more cultural and social support.

This is a very interesting and valuable book with good analysis, great insights, and good ideas, but some important holes in the program.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not very helpful, April 10, 2013
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This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
First a nit. Describing governments as "operating systems" is silly now. It will be horrifically painful when people read it in 10 years.

I looked forward to reading this book. We need to face the challenges to liberalism that are coming from state driven oligarchic capitalism from eat. But this books wants to role back the progressive changes of the progressive era and restore some of the indirect elections of the original constitution. They do not discuss why these changes were put in place and the negatives that came from the oligarchs who had too much power in this country before the progressive era. While they did mention the "bad" emperor problem, they did not discuss how you control corruption and the negative tendencies of state capitalism.

After reading this book I am still convinced that the core of the issue facing our country is how to remove the corruptive influence of money in politics. While they recommend changes to how elections work, I see nothing in their approach that reduces the influence of money (in some ways it only strength it). China has corruption. The US has corruption. We need to fix it in our system directly and not copy aspects of other systems that will do nothing to address it.

Read the Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama for a better discussion of governance and corruption.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe we need less democracy, April 10, 2013
By 
J. Green (Los Angeles, California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
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We Americans take a great deal of pride in our form of government, many of us going so far as to proclaim our method the best there is. That doesn't mean we don't complain about our leaders and the mess they've made of things. But as we look at our current problems and see nascent democracies around the world struggle and frequently fail, are we too proud to consider improvements? Even if it means adopting some ideas from other nations? Nations such as China?

The American Founding Fathers were adamant in their displeasure with Democracy, equating it with mob rule, and yet we've become *more* democratic and less of a Republic in the subsequent 200 years. Whereas earlier Americans didn't vote for the President or the Senate, now we have a say in choosing those leaders even if our vote is watered down by millions of others - and that's just the ones who actually vote! Most feel disenfranchised and don't believe their vote makes a difference. And just how informed are those who *are* voting? Are they knowledgeable about the issues and candidates, or are they just voting for the most charismatic candidate or basing their decision on personal decisions (like race or party) or are they simply swayed by multi-million dollar advertising campaigns and catchy slogans?

But it's not just the voters who don't understand the issues; we frequently elect leaders who are have little experience in government. The authors also point out the undue influence of special interests such as unions, corporations, industries, or even just influential minority groups. We comfort ourselves by thinking our voice matters when it's actually those special interests who are funding the expensive campaigns that have become necessary today and have the ears of our leaders. As a result, we've become a "consumer democracy" and we end up with decisions being made with short-term results in mind instead of looking to the future and addressing the most important issues (like infrastructure, education, energy, environment, etc.) that would allow us to retain our place of influence in the world.

China is also discussed but not as much as I had anticipated. The authors are careful to make a distinction between Communist China (which they basically say was a failure) and Confucian China (of which even most of the shorter dynasties lasted longer than our nation has so far). Confucian ideals promote a leadership class based on merit, where leaders must prove themselves at lower levels before they can aspire to more responsibility, and the authors say we could limit the power of special interests if we utilized more committees of "experts" in making policy recommendations. They also point out the current challenges in China's government - corruption, repression, lack of human rights, lax environmental standards, etc. - but the focus is more on possible improvements in Western governments. Globalization and the social media revolution are also discussed as a huge challenge faced by both Eastern and Western governments.

I found this book a very well-thought out and rational examination of the problems in America right now. They offer specific recommendations for the U.S., California, G-20 group of nations, and the European Union. I don't necessarily agree with all their proposals (and many will be a very tough-sell) and the direction toward global government they seem to advocate, but I think there are a number of ideas that would make a positive difference. I also wish they had explained more thoroughly what they meant by "consumer democracy" - I think I understood it but I didn't think it was clear enough. Nonetheless, this is an excellent book that deserves careful consideration by ALL those concerned with the direction we are going.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too vague and finally just centered in a project for California, January 14, 2013
This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
Well below my expectations not only from the title but from the authors background. At the end, the book could be summarized in 10 pages. The description about the Chinese system is simplistic and without relevant details. Something you and I could find in a good Google session. Three quarters of the book could be reduced to 3 pages. Towards the end of the book, they rush into a description of what they envisage for California (like if the Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century would be only for one State).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Democratic governance still fit for purpose?, February 4, 2014
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An excellent read for all those who - like the undersigned - doubt if our traditional western style liberal democratic (short term thinking) governance systems are still fit for purpose in a world confronted with a host of longterm problems, requiring true leadership with vision, expertise and wisdom.
Bergruen advances his views on the need to effect overdue changes to our Western style democratic as well as to the Oriental (read: Chinese) Meritocratic governance systems, suggesting that a hybrid form of these systems may offer a better solution for facing the future.
WAMH
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but..., July 21, 2013
By 
J. Myers (near Houston, Texas) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
The four stars are for giving me a lot to think about and a few ideas that could, perhaps, improve governance in this country. The lack of a fifth star is for sometimes being much harder to read than it needs to be because of incomplete information and occasional oververbage.

I read this book because I am concerned about how our country is governed and about how hard it is for other countries that are seeking better governance. I started this book, then somewhere in the middle of it I read America Aflame, which reaffirmed my belief that America began as an exceptional country and there is no clear way to maintain/regain that exceptionalism as long as we citizens throw bricks at it instead of using those bricks to build. There will always be massive disagreements in a country of 400 million individuals. Will we make the choice to proceed together or not? As I returned to this book I was struck by the sterility, the levers and gears described in it. Why do the authors think local representatives will want something more high-minded than "more for less?"

The authors succeeded in their goal of using China and America as a source of ideas for what works and what doesn't in government. They seem to expect a lot of resistance to the idea that unfettered democracy has some problems. Most of the ones they tentatively suggest are explored in the Federalist Papers, so these ideas are not new but re-found. I particularly appreciated description of the work of the Think Long Committee for California. This looks like an idea that may help government function better in delivering services and can fit with existing ideas of government in this country (although again, I see no people here, only formulas).

This follows a chapter that I found extremely strange in that it proposes a very specific governance structure that I cannot imagine being implemented in this country (or, from what I know of other places, anywhere else), and which is described in verbiage that I found much more opaque and abstract than the rest of the book. This very specific recipe is sprung on the reader following descriptions of various forms of existing governments, and to me without enough explanation of why this one alone is so perfect, or, alternatively, enough assurance that it is shown as just one of many possible means to a desired end.

My belief in this book was shaken a bit by frequent footnoteing of Francis Fukuyama's Origins of Political Order and Mancur Olson's Rise and Decline of Nations. I set out to learn about these, thinking I would read them next, because these ideas (plus references to Confucius) seemed to be important to the authors. The reviews I found suggested that Fukuyama's book has definite plusses, but didn't include a lot of what others consider important about the rise of governance in several countries in Europe, and the review in the New York Times seemed tepid. I also read that Fukuyama may not fully agree with what he wrote in that book, and I am disinclined to follow his trail of thought (I was just looking for a book that would give me more background). Olson also apparently had further thoughts and gave up some of the ideas he expressed in the cited work. This made me wonder if the authors of the current book had based their beliefs on a solid foundation (or as solid as a work about people can be). I'll see if any of the books recommended by reviewer Robert David Steele will do for my understanding of the history of political governance.

This book did lead me to Creel's book on Confucius, which I have ordered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars World Leaders Take Note!, June 3, 2013
By 
Lawrence (Meridian, ID United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East (Hardcover)
As a past Executive Director for Idaho’s public pension system, “governance” is a very, very important element in assessing the degree of fiduciary compliance the system’s trustees are adhering to via their proxy voting record and there power in supporting or firing board members of publically traded companies. The collective track record for U S pension fund trustees is dismal as evidenced over the lack of self-correcting, judicial feedback loops designed to mitigate or eliminate corruption in the economic systems of this country’s lifeline.

The authors, although remaining silent regarding pension fund governance, do bring out the global framework of governance (predominately China’s and the United States’) when it comes to governmental systems of public organizations. Public political input at local levels, leadership aptitude and experiential competency at the national level and transparency checks and balances are all essential for the corrective feedback loops to assist in maintaining “Organizational Dynamics” in an ever changing world. I just wish anyone running for office would first be required to read this piece of work. China employs competency level checks and balances at its top political leadership levels that still unfortunately remain void in the US. What the US lacks in competent allegiance and responsiveness to its citizens it more than makes up for in its politics to “Special Interests.”
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