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When frustration with the system boils over, some vote for populist parties and politicians. But as my colleague Alex Kliment explains, other more imaginative types go a step further: they reject government authority altogether and set up their own self-styled states, some of them complete with their own flags, passports, and even currencies.

That’s what thousands of disaffected Germans have done as part of the loosely affiliated “Reichsbürger Movement,” established on the principle that the German government created after World War Two is illegitimate and that the German Empire is still legally in force. Near the city of Wittenberg in the former East Germany, a local man has crowned himself monarch of the “Kingdom of Germany,” a would-be state of 250 people who no longer pay German taxes or carry German identification papers. There are dozens of other such entities scattered across the country.

The Reichsbürger  (literally, “Reich citizens”) movement dates to the 1980s, but its ranks, mainly rightwing sympathizers, have nearly doubled to 16,500 people since 2016 as broader anti-establishment sentiment has grown throughout Germany. The authorities say that about 900 members are considered extremists and that gun ownership rates in the movement are more than triple the national average of 2 percent. Last year, a Reichsbürgermember was given a life sentence for killing a policeman.

On the one hand, the Reichsbürger – like the “Sovereign Citizens” movement in the US, the “Freemen-on-the-Land” throughout the former British empire, or even the nice Norwegian lady who established the short-lived enclave of Niceland – are a weird sort of curiosity. Peter I of the Kingdom of Germany is recognized by no other governments or states.

But in a world where every level of political organization seems to be chafing against the authority of the level above it – countries against multinational unions, regions against countries, states against federal governments, and even cities against their surrounding regions and countries – they are the ultimate, if quixotic, expression of individual sovereignty. The “Reichsbürger Movement” involves thousands of people and continues to grow.

In a world where social media helps citizens with grievances find one another more easily than ever, where the Internet can give alternative narratives of sovereignty a new kind of authority, and where even guns and bullets can now be printed at home, we can expect more of these sorts of movements around the world in the coming years.

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On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

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We're only a few weeks into 2021 and that 'fresh new start' that so many had been hoping for at the end of 2020 has not exactly materialized. But what gives World Bank President David Malpass hope for the coming year? "The promise of humanity and of technology, people working together with communication, where they can share ideas. It allows an incredible advance for living standards." His wide-ranging conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

It wasn't pretty, but we made it to Inauguration Day. These last four years have taught the US a lot about itself — so what have we learned?

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and it is the last full day of the Trump administration. Extraordinary four years, unprecedented in so many ways. I guess the most important feature for me is how much more divided the United States is, the world is, as coming out of the Trump administration than it was coming in. Not new. We were in a GZERO world, as I called it well before Trump was elected president. The social contract was seen as fundamentally problematic. Many Americans believed their system was rigged, didn't want to play the kind of international leadership role that the United States had heretofore, but all of those things accelerated under Trump.

So perhaps the most important question to be answered is, once Trump is gone, how much of that persists? It is certainly true that a President Biden is much more oriented towards trying to bring the United States back into existing multilateral architecture, whether that be the Paris Climate Accord, or more normalized immigration discussions with the Mexicans, the World Health Organization, the Iranian Nuclear Deal, some of which will be easy to do, like Paris, some of which will be very challenging, like Iran. But nonetheless, all sounds like business as usual.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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