Occupy the Government

NEW YORK – Too much of the talk nowadays about how social media has affected politics focuses on awareness: People adopt social media, discover they are not alone, start to protest, and eventually their “Facebook revolution” overwhelms those in power. But, even if such a revolution succeeds, that is only the beginning. What happens next?

As an angel investor in start-up companies and a sometime philanthropist, I have the luxury of traveling the world and talking with articulate people who give me an unofficial, clear-eyed view of how most countries actually work. It is a depressing picture. I have been to roughly 70 countries, and have discovered roughly 70 different ways to run things badly.

Many of these countries have elections; but, as has been said of Russia, while the candidates may surprise, the outcome is predictable. Often a single individual or a small group has almost absolute power. Seemingly independent businesses are mostly beholden to government supporters, who typically take a cut of the proceeds.

Even in real democracies, where people vote freely, things are going badly, as in Greece. Elsewhere, as in Egypt, democratization incites further protests, or even violence.