Us vs Them

Us vs Them

Ian Bremmer (president of GZERO Media and Eurasia Group) has a new book out next week. It’s called “Us vs Them: The Failure of Globalism.” I expect many people will soon be arguing about both its interpretation of the present and its vision of the future.


A few words on the main points of argument:

1- Ongoing economic and technological changes in today’s world make it much harder for government to meet our needs. Globalization and new technologies threaten our jobs. Fights over migration have transformed borders into fault-lines. Predatory companies, other governments, and criminals compete for access to the data we produce. Our government isn’t protecting us.

2- These problems open doors for politicians who promise to protect “us” from “them.” Depending on the country and the context, “them” can be establishment politicians, foreigners, racial, ethnic or religious minorities, bankers, reporters, the police, the criminal, or supporters of the other political party.

3- This trend is fully visible in Europe, where far-right political parties have made extraordinary gains in recent years, in Britain (see Brexit), and in the United States (see Donald Trump and the most extreme voices in both parties.)

4- But look to the future, and you’ll see this isn’t just a rich-world problem or a threat only to democracies. Automation of the workplace, in particular, will disrupt the ways that developing countries build and sustain middle classes. These places already have weaker political institutions than in wealthy democracies, and many have ready-made “us vs them” racial, ethnic, and religious divisions already within their borders.

5- In both developed and developing countries, some governments will respond by building walls, real and virtual. Some of these walls will be designed to protect citizens from outsiders. Others will divide this group from that group. Still others will protect government from its people.

6- But there will also be governments — inspired by or partnering with the private sector, philanthropists, and individual visionaries — that experiment with ways to update the social contract for the 21st century. How to expand our conception of education? How to create a social safety net for the gig economy? How to tackle inequality of opportunity? How to restore public confidence in the ability of government to serve citizens?

Ian’s conclusion — Mocking Donald Trump and deriding the world’s strongmen is too easy and misses the point: The world is shifting beneath our feet. We must plan for the best outcomes and prepare for the worst.

The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every household, changing the way we live our lives. The pandemic continues to reinforce the drive for cooperation between communities, governments and businesses in order to combat the threat.

Microsoft responded to the pandemic in its home state through efforts like donating protective equipment, making boxed lunches for families and using technology to better understand the spread of the virus over the last year. Now, we're sharing six ways Microsoft is pulling together with the community to lend a hand to fellow Washingtonians in 2021 including helping with vaccination efforts. To read more, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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The Biden administration's much ballyhooed Earth Day Summit this week promises to be revealing. We're going to learn a little about what additional action a few dozen of the world's largest emitters are willing to take on climate change, and a lot more about which countries are willing to take such action at the behest of the United States.

Call it a situational assessment of the status of American power just shy of Biden's 100th day in office.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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