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Lewis Lapham: Gridlock, Corruption Show Political Decay

Nicolas Berggruen, co-author of
Nicolas Berggruen, co-author of "Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East," with Nathan Gardels. Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Western democracy prides itself on the ability to adapt to changing times.

It is now headed for “terminal political decay,” threatened by gridlock, debt and deficits, income inequality and corruption, according to billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, author of “Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century.”

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

He points out that in the U.S., for example, as significant wealth was becoming concentrated in the financial sector -- by 2005 it accounted for 40 percent of all business profits -- the middle class came under growing pressure.

Well-paying jobs disappeared. Tech firms tend to need fewer employees: Facebook has about 3,500. Apple in the U.S. has 43,000, while the iPhone is made in China by Foxconn, with 1.2 million workers.

To survive the current crisis, Berggruen says we need to radically reform the way we govern ourselves.

I spoke with him on the following topics:

1. Crises of Governance

2. Popularity Vs. Ability

3. Informed Citizens

4. Global Interdependence

5. Reforming California

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend Best and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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