There are signs everywhere that people are extremely frustrated with politics: the Arab spring, approval ratings of US Congress at a historical low, fringe parties and street protests on the rise in Europe, upheaval in South Africa and protests against Putin in Russia, to name just a few examples.

The world is calling not only for new policies, but also for a new approach to politics. This is why the world needs new and better political leaders.

World politics in general, and democratic rule in particular, is at an inflexion point. The world experienced tremendous change in the last 20 years, starting with the collapse of the post-World War II order and followed by a number of technological revolutions. These technological and geopolitical factors gradually made a huge impact on the economy and culture. However, no major changes took place in the international system or in the way democracies function. Decisions that affect all are still made by a few – and behind closed doors.

New economic and social models require new politics. We reached such inflexion points a number of times in modern history – and how we handle them politically matters greatly. If transition is handled well, as in 1815 and 1945, long periods of stability and prosperity follow. If it is mishandled, like the 1750s and in 1918, conflict is hard to extinguish for a long time.

Strife, upheaval, polarization and paralysis around the world make it clear: politics needs a redesign at all levels – local, national, regional and global.

We need to make better use of the tools made available by emerging technologies. We need to make government more responsive to citizens. We need to make it easier for people from all walks of life to participate in decision-making. We need to ensure fairness and extend opportunity to everyone, within and across countries. We need to make governments less costly and more efficient. Finally, we need to establish an international system of governance that can respond to complex challenges such as climate change.

Politics urgently needs design. Design takes courage, skill and experience. Hence, those who wish for a better world should become more active in politics now. Good people abstaining from the public sphere leaves it to bad people and chance.

This is not just a passing thought – we have 2,500 years of political philosophy to support us, from Aristotle to Arendt, through Locke and Rousseau in the West and Farabi and Ibn Khaldoun in the East: Man is a political animal by nature and it is deeply fulfilling to engage in politics.

So – game on!

Author: Umit Kumcuoglu is the CEO of Kare Investments, a broker-dealer and fund manager based in Turkey.  Previously, he worked for Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan in New York, London and Istanbul.  He is a PhD candidate in political science at the Istanbul Biligi University.  He holds two bachelors degrees in electrical engineering and economics for MIT and a masters degree in human rights law from Istanbul Bilgi university.  He has been a columnist and commentator on politics, economics and markets for 15 years and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008.

Photo Credit: Reuters Images


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