Germany in the Doldrums

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA Luskin, penned a commentary about Germany’s political and economic doldrums for Project Syndicate. Once a beacon of stability, the Germany of recent years has proved itself unprepared for global shocks and shifting geopolitics, including a pandemic, energy shortages, and hostilities in Europe and the Middle East. Anheier points to the “liability of success” as a key cause of the country’s woes. “What is true for companies is true for countries: good financial performance can lead to complacency. During periods of strong economic growth, governments become overconfident and disregard changing conditions,” he writes. “Sitting on its laurels for too long left [Germany] ill-prepared for today’s world.”


Journal’s Special Issue Is Devoted to the Berggruen Governance Index

Global Policy, an interdisciplinary journal pursuing public and private solutions to global problems and issues, today released a special issue focusing on the Berggruen Governance Index, a collaborative project between UCLA Luskin and the Berggruen Institute. The index is a tool for analyzing the Governance Triangle democratic accountability, state capacity and public goods provision — to better understand how governments can create a more resilient future for their people. Based on an analysis of 134 countries over a 20-year period, the index aims to demystify the intricacies of governance and shed light on how countries meet the needs of their populations over time. Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA Luskin and professor of sociology at the Hertie School in Berlin, is principal investigator of the Berggruen Governance Index. The special issue of Global Policy is organized into three parts. Part I offers an overview of the index and its implications, followed by regional and country-specific insights. Part II delves into detailed country and regional reports, examining key global powers and significant regions. Part III concludes the issue by summarizing a conference on governance indicator systems, surveying contributions from other projects, and presenting thoughts on the future of global governance indicators in an ever-changing and uncertain world. Articles in the special issue are open access and of interest to policy analysts, social scientists, and experts in government and international organizations.


A Far-Right Party Surges in Germany

Helmut K. Anheier, adjunct professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA Luskin, wrote a Project Syndicate commentary on the rising popularity of Germany’s largest far-right party. Once dismissed as a fringe group of radical nationalists, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has surged in the polls thanks to infighting and missteps by Germany’s political mainstream, as well as to the Ukraine war, which disrupted Germans’ sense of security as well as their energy supply. If the party’s popularity holds — it’s now polling at 21% support, up from 11% last year — it could position itself to becoming a coalition partner or leader in future elections, taking up the mantle of legitimacy that far-right parties in France, Italy and Sweden have adopted. The party has offered new clues about its agenda. Björn Höcke, a state party leader who has become a standard-bearer for the AfP, declared that “this EU must die, so that the real Europe can live.”


Germany’s New National Security Plan Lacks Specifics, Anheier Writes

An analysis by UCLA Luskin’s Helmut K. Anheier of Germany’s new national-security plan applauds the strategy but finds it too vague to be effective. Anheier’s article, distributed through Project Syndicate, notes that in modern times Germany has historically relied on the United States and NATO for protection, projecting itself as a champion of military restraint. “This illusion was shattered after Russia attacked Ukraine, and China, eager to exploit any perceived Western vulnerability, adopted a more assertive foreign policy,” writes Anheier, an adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy who oversees the Berggruen Governance Index. The plan recently issued by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz does not sufficiently address the institutional mechanisms — nor budgetary resources — needed to implement it. “The strategy will most likely remain on the shelf — a well-written account of what could have been,” concludes Anheier, who is also a professor of sociology at the Hertie School in Berlin.


A Bungled Return of Treasured Artifacts

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA Luskin, wrote a Project Syndicate commentary about the legal, political and moral questions surrounding a bungled attempt to repatriate the Benin Bronzes, plundered 125 years ago by colonial powers, to Nigeria. After Germany returned some of the elaborately decorated castings and carvings in December 2022, conflicting declarations about who their rightful owner is stoked confusion and raised fears that the cultural artifacts could wind up on the black market. “While there are lingering doubts about Europe’s and America’s willingness to return treasures that were looted or illicitly obtained during the colonial era, there are also questions about some countries’ readiness to honor the commitments governing such transfers,” Anheier wrote. To prevent narrow national interests from undermining the process of returning stolen national treasures, he urged that UNESCO be designated as the body overseeing such transfers, citing the body’s role as the custodian of world heritage sites.


Anheier on Germany’s Uncertain Stance on the Russia-Ukraine War

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote an opinion article for Project Syndicate regarding Germany’s indecision about the role it should play in the Russia-Ukraine war. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germans were split on what action to take, with some advocating for more military support for Ukraine and others favoring a settlement to prevent the war from extending to other European countries. Anheier stressed the importance of NATO working with China, India and midsize powers such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia to improve communication and security. By doing so, nations would understand how conditions in Ukraine could easily worsen if action is not taken soon. “This is no time for fence-sitting and free-riding. Everyone will lose out from a broader conflict. If Germans want the fighting to end, they should demand that their government do its part to bring other governments to the table,” he said.


Anheier on Challenge Ahead for Germany’s Leaders

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote a Project Syndicate article on the debate in Germany about the nation’s place in a changing geopolitical landscape. The decision to furnish Ukraine with powerful tanks in its war with Russia is part of a broader national reorientation that would make Germany one of Europe’s largest military powers — yet German society remains basically pacifist. Many citizens are grappling with how to uphold the values they hold dear while becoming more assertive on the international stage. Some good can come from a divided society if a country’s leaders can provide pragmatic fresh thinking, Anheier writes. “Some tensions are good for society, because they can provide the impetus for innovation and progress. But for that to happen, political leaders need to understand the nature of the problem and offer a clear and coherent vision for ameliorating it.”


To Hold Governments Accountable, Researchers Take Some Heat

By Stan Paul and Les Dunseith

In June 2022, UCLA Luskin announced the results of a groundbreaking analysis of the effectiveness of governments in more than 140 nations known as the Berggruen Governance Index, a collaborative project with the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute.

Four months later, an international who’s who of governance scholars came to UCLA or weighed in remotely to point out every possible flaw and shortcoming of the index they could find.

And that was exactly the point.

“The Berggruen Governance Index is an ambitious new approach that involves complex data structures and analyses,” said principal investigator Helmut Anheier, UCLA adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, as well as the former president of the Hertie School in Germany, which also played a role in the report. “Therefore, it was important to invite leading experts on global data systems to come to the Luskin School to review and discuss the index.”

Joining other UCLA, Hertie School and Berggruen Institute representatives at the conference were scholars and data experts from global locations like Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Ghana and Great Britain, and U.S. institutions like Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame and Columbia. Over two days of presentations and panel discussions, they dissected the study methodology. They pondered whether a nation-level perspective is inherently superficial. And they discussed, sometimes in spirited language, whether the whole idea unfairly reflects a pro-democracy, pro-wealthy-nation Western bias.

“It was a very productive meeting that generated many important ideas,” Anheier said. “This was the first time that such a large and diverse groups of experts on global data and indicator systems met to explore how they can work together. The 2022 conference will certainly go down as a landmark event.”

The idea of measuring governance on a global scale is not new to academia, but the specific approach of the index is rooted in efforts at the Berggruen Institute that originated during a “chaotic and concerning time” for democracy in the U.S. and other parts of the world, said Dawn Nakagawa, executive vice president of the Berggruen Institute.

When the institute “began about a dozen years ago, it was with the idea that we will work on issues of governance, because governance matters,” said investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen during a Q&A with UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura during the conference.

“I grew up in Europe, then I came to America, and I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to travel the world,” Berggruen said. “One of the things that I learned is culture and governance really make a difference to how countries progress and how citizens fare within the countries.”

Berggruen, Nakagawa, Anheier and others directly involved in the project have come to realize that trusting the data can challenge preconceptions.

For example, one might presume the United States and other pro-democracy countries would do well in the analysis. And some do. But the index found a dramatic drop in the quality of government and quality of democracy in the United States over the past 20 years.

At the same time, some nations with less-democratic approaches showed measurable improvements in their provision of public goods like education, health care and environmental protection, particularly in Africa.

After reading the report and exploring the data in an online platform built expressly for that purpose, Berggruen saw that reality does not always match expectations.

“At the end of the day, we almost have to take our ideological hats off and say, ‘Let’s look at the reality of the data and whether governments deliver for citizens as a service.’ And you’ve seen that, in some countries, well, they’ve done better than we would suspect from simply an ideological standpoint.”

Berggruen told the 30 invited attendees to keep in mind that “governance is not just an idea, an ideology or a system of government. We’ve learned through the index how important it is not just to have principles of governance, but also the ability to translate that into reality. That means bringing the resources to a country to execute. That means administration. It means people. It means laws. And it means a culture
at the end.”

Berggruen thanked the assembled scholars for their diligence and their sometimes-blunt analysis. “Perfecting the index is a way we can, hopefully, help countries and governments better serve their citizens.”

Watch a video highlighting the conference and its purpose

Berggruen 2022 Conference at UCLA from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

Anheier Analyzes Feasibility of Germany’s New Foreign Policy

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote an opinion article for Project Syndicate about Germany’s new plan to adopt epochal change in order to engage in foreign policy in a more active manner. The country has signaled that it will focus on a more feminist foreign policy and take a less ambiguous position in regard to doing business with autocrats. However, the likelihood of Germany following through with this plan is in question, Anheier said, pointing to the country’s past record of falling short on similar aspirations. Earlier this year, Germany announced support for Ukraine but has not yet delivered all the aid it promised, and it has also been slow in supporting the women-led protests in Iran. Furthermore, the country’s coalition government has frustrated German voters because of differing political goals within the alliance.


Anheier on Charitable Giving for 2023

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, provided insights for a WalletHub feature on charitable giving for 2023. One of the biggest mistakes people make when donating to charity is “not having enough knowledge about the charity, its governance and track record, and assuming that having very low overheads is a good sign in terms of impact,” said Anheier, whose research interests include nonprofits and philanthropy. On red flags to watch out for before donating, Anheier highlighted three: websites that are not transparent, blatant overpromising on results and not having diverse boards. The article cites data showing that while giving in the U.S. increased by 4% from 2020 to 2021, current donation increases are competing with higher inflation. “People donate less during crises, foundations have less to spend, and public budgets are tight,” Anheier said. “Hopefully, charities were able to build up financial reserves to serve as a buffer during hard times.”