By Ian Bremmer

Around the world, good governance is now in short supply. Democrats and Republicans on the so-called deficit reduction supercommittee in Washington failed to agree even on what they disagree about. There is no consensus among the leaders of euro zone countries on the cause of Europe’s debt crisis, much less on what to do about it.

Nor are major emerging markets blazing a trail toward better governance. China’s leaders accept that the country’s economic growth is “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable,” in the words of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, but early evidence suggests they haven’t done much to change it. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s once and future president, is not the man to reform Russia. Even Brazil, a notable developing world success story, faces a wave of high-level political scandals and resignations.

So where are we to find decent governance in today’s crisis-prone world?

It’s hard to look to Washington. For all the worries over squabbling U.S. lawmakers and the histrionics of Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street activists, to find the real problem in American politics we must follow the money.

Interest groups of every stripe have the cash and the access to co-opt broad segments of both parties. This allows them to block efforts at reform that might erode their wealth and influence. Not even a financial meltdown of historic proportions could generate enough public demand to loosen the lobbyists’ grip.

Across the Atlantic, the problem within the euro zone is the structure of the euro zone itself. These 17 countries share a common currency, yet they have distinctly different political systems, electoral calendars and approaches to taxes and state spending. The debt crisis has now empowered both bureaucrats in Brussels and governments led by unelected technocrats in Athens and Rome. That may help avert near-term disaster, but it won’t produce a credible long-term solution.

Are authoritarian states better equipped than democracies to govern effectively in times of crisis?

On the one hand, it’s considered a strength of democracies that the independence of their institutions — courts, media, political parties, banks — bolster public confidence in government, no matter who is in charge. On the other, as checks and balances limit the power of individual elected officials, they make it more difficult to get things done when change is needed most. Read more…

Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group and author of “The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?”

As published in www.nytimes.com on November 27, 2011 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on November 28, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune with the headline: Searching the World for Good Governance).


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