Germany as Defender of the Liberal International Order

A Project Syndicate commentary by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier assessed Germany’s effectiveness in managing an array of crises made urgent by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. “Germany faces no shortage of challenges, from the Russian security threat and political instability among Western allies to democratic backsliding and a looming economic crisis within the European Union,” Anheier wrote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced some of the most drastic policy reversals in postwar German history, including increased investment in the military, a radical overhaul of the nation’s energy policy and a review of trade policies with autocratic regimes, especially China. Progress has been halting but, overall, the current government has proven surprisingly adept at managing the situation, Anheier wrote. “With a relatively sound economy, a strong commitment to the liberal order and the EU, and a functioning government, Germany may be Europe’s best hope in the current crises, provided that American support for Ukraine remains strong.”

Assessing the Health of American Democracy

A Washington Post article on different assessments of the stability of American democracy cited the 2022 Berggruen Governance Index, which tracks quality of life, governance and democracy in countries around the world. The article noted that the U.S. political status quo has triggered pessimism and despair, yet several countries still regard the United States as a bulwark of liberal democratic values. The recently released Berggruen Governance Index, a collaborative project of UCLA Luskin and the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute, identified significant declines in U.S. “state capacity” and “democratic accountability” over the past 20 years. “The steepness of the U.S.’s drop is unusual: Its path parallels Brazil, Hungary and Poland much more closely than that of Western Europe or the other wealthy Anglophone countries,” according to Markus Lang and Edward Knudsen, researchers who work with the governance index’s principal investigator, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier.


Conference: 2022 Berggruen Governance Index

In partnership with the Berggruen Institute. 

About this event

It is our pleasure to invite you to an international conference that looks at the newly developed Berggruen Governance Index (BGI) in the context of wide range of indicator and global data systems, from Varieties of Democracy to the Quality of Government, and from the World Value Survey to indicators developed by the World Bank and other international organizations.

The BGI is the centerpiece of a multi-year project jointly run by the Berggruen Institute and UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.  It examines the relationship between quality of democracy, state capacity, and quality of life in over 140 countries over an extended period. We have invited an international group of academics and experts from leading indicator projects and data systems to explore opportunities for future research and cooperation.

The executive summary of the Index is here, and a fuller report can be accessed here.

View the conference agenda

View bios of the participants in the conference.

To register for the event, please follow this link or click the button below.



Faculty, please register as an “Observer.”

Staff and Students, please register under “General Admission.”

Download and read two recent draft scholarly articles:

UCLA Luskin Scholars on Strengthening Democracy in the Americas

A June 8 conference on how to strengthen the collective defense of democracy in the Americas featured several scholars from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The hybrid in-person discussion and webinar was a companion event to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The webinar focused on strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 by 34 countries of the Organization of American States. The goal is to generate and advance realistic policy recommendations to improve the charter’s application by OAS member states. President Gabriel Boric of Chile offered the keynote address . In addition to Dean Gary Segura, participating UCLA Luskin faculty included Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Herrera and Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen. The webinar is sponsored by the UCLA Burkle Center for International RelationsUCLA Latin American Institute and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-sponsored by the Latin American Program at the Wilson CenterThe Carter Center and the Community of Democracies


View photos from the event on Flickr:

Defense of Democracy


Declines in Accountability Among U.S., Asian Governments Since 2000 Highlighted Berggruen Governance Index assesses the quality of democracy and measures quality of life in 134 nations

By Stan Paul

It started as a conversation about democracy and why some countries enjoy a higher quality of life than others, and it culminated in the release of a groundbreaking analysis of more than 130 governments around the world.

The 2022 Berggruen Governance Index, unveiled June 1 during a gathering at UCLA’s Kerckhoff Grand Salon, 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, several African nations showed measurable improvements in their provision of public goods like education, health care and environmental protection.

The collaborative project of UCLA Luskin and the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute is now available online on the index’s website as a report, plus links that allow researchers to search and sort the data for themselves.

“We had this fundamental concern that governance itself was poorly understood,” said Dawn Nakagawa, executive vice president of the Berggruen Institute, recalling the origins of the index during a “chaotic and concerning time” for democracy in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

The index was compiled by researchers from UCLA Luskin and the Hertie School in Berlin. It draws on data from sources that included the United Nations, statistical offices and research institutes from  2000 through 2019.

“And these have been a really consequential 20 years for democracy,” said Nakagawa, who spoke during the launch event, as did UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura.

Leading the day’s discussion was principal investigator Helmut Anheier, UCLA adjunct professor of social welfare and former president of the Hertie School in Germany, along with Markus Lang, a researcher at the Hertie School and the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Anheier noted that although research and literature on governance have existed for some time, it has focused on various singular aspects of governance or democracy. He and his co-authors took a different, multipronged approach to understanding governance.

“We say governance is finding the balance among three components,” Anheier said.

The researchers scored selected national governments on an array of individual measures, grouping findings into three overarching categories:

  • Quality of democracy, which is based on the effectiveness of checks and balances between branches of government, and officials’ accountability to voters and society.
  • Quality of government, which considers governments’ abilities to generate revenue, function administratively and execute policies.
  • Quality of life, which considers governments’ ability to provide social, economic and environmental public goods.

“Rather than saying there is one number that represents governance performance, we see a lot of insight that had been gained by looking at the tension and relationship among these components, and that is expressed by something we call the governance triangle,” Anheier said.

illustration of a triangle illustrates the three key measurement areas of the report

The rankings evaluate quality of government, quality of democracy and quality of life measures, which the researchers call the “governance triangle.”

“It really does break open the black box of governance, looks inside, and allows us to see these three very important components interact,” Nakagawa said.

A major finding was the dramatic drop in the quality of government and quality of democracy in the United States, which was the only Western power with a declining score in those categories. The U.S. quality of life score improved, but only slightly.

Additional findings:

  • Although the U.S. score for quality of government remains far above the global average, its decline on that measure since 2000 was one of the world’s largest, on par with declines in Haiti, Hong Kong and Hungary.
  • The 10 countries with the greatest improvements in quality of life measures all are in Africa. However, as a whole, Africa still ranks well below other regions in terms of quality of life factors.
  • Quality of democracy scores retreated in several Asian nations, including in Bangladesh, China, India, the Philippines and Thailand. Many nations in the Americas also saw declines in those measures.

The day’s program also included a discussion of democracy, public policy and global challenges featuring UCLA experts. Moderated by Anheier, the panel featured Steve Zipperstein, an attorney and lecturer in global studies at UCLA;  Veronica Herrera, an associate professor of urban planning who studies political development in the Global South; Cesi Cruz, an assistant professor whose research intersects political science and economics; and Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, an assistant professor of public policy focusing on subnational conflict, statistics and advanced data analysis.

Closing comments were provided by Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning at UCLA Luskin, and Andrew Apter, a professor of history and anthropology at UCLA.

“One of the most important indicators of successful research is … surprising results,” said Apter, who complimented his longtime colleague Anheier on fulfilling that ideal.

Storper, who also serves as director of Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin, took a comparative view of the results. Democracy in the United States is very different from the federal governments in nations such as France and Germany that fared better in the analysis.

“European governmental setups are really different than what we have here in the United States,” he said. Several European countries have more modern constitutions, he noted, than the older, more rigid U.S. constitution.

“The index is going to allow us … to do more and more of this, I would say, comparative, evolutionary thinking,” Storper said. “Thanks for doing this work and actually bringing it to UCLA.”

UCLA produces and disseminates the index thanks to a $3 million gift from the Berggruen Institute. Researchers plan to publish the next Berggruen Governance Index in 2024. In the meantime, they will present the work at key institutions in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, culminating in an international conference hosted on campus by UCLA Luskin on Oct. 10-11.

View photos from the launch event on Flickr:

Berggruen Governance Index Release

Watch a recording of the launch event on Vimeo:

Anheier Recommends National Security Council for Germany

In a new Project Syndicate article, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier urged Germany to create a national security council. For decades, Germany has received criticism for low defense spending, fence-sitting and free-riding, Anheier wrote. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz proclaimed a dramatic policy reorientation that would make Germany one of the top military spenders and arms exporters. However, the success of this policy change will depend on German leadership, and Anheier proposed establishing a German national security council. “Long proposed but never realized, an NSC could advance a coherent defense, security and foreign policy strategy,” he wrote. “Located close to the chancellery, it would act as a central policy coordinator, helping to overcome the fragmentation that often characterizes federal ministries’ responses to crises.” According to Anheier, a security council would be key to helping Germany align its economic and security policy with the European Union’s common defense strategy.

Anheier Reflects on Germany’s Three-Party Coalition Government

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier authored a Project Syndicate article about the first 100 days of Germany’s three-party coalition government. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Ampelkoalition (“traffic light coalition”), which comprises the Social Democrats, the Free Democrats and the Greens, is Germany’s first three-party government since the 1950s. “To make it work, each party has had to bend on sacred principles and adopt policy positions that previously would have seemed unthinkable,” Anheier wrote. “For a country that prefers consensual, deliberative decision-making and no-surprises, many of the recent, sudden policy shifts have been profound and will alter Germany’s domestic and foreign-policy trajectory for decades to come.” Anheier warned that radical policy changes could backfire, especially when they lack clear public consent, and that the three parties must remain united. “If uncertain times demand novel policies and political flexibility, the Ampelkoalition has so far shown itself to be up to the challenge,” he concluded.

Anheier on Germany’s Role in Ukraine Crisis

A Project Syndicate commentary authored by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier took stock of the diplomatic and economic pressures on Germany as it considers its role in defusing the Ukraine crisis. As Russian troops amass on Ukraine’s border and as NATO nations issue warnings, Germany’s response has been tempered by a commitment to pacifism driven by historical guilt as well as the nation’s reliance on imported — mostly Russian — natural gas. Germany must confront the risks inherent in its dependence on Russian energy and examine the sustainability of its business relations with Moscow, Anheier wrote. “It must let both Russia and its NATO allies know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that while it is no champion of hard power, it is willing to bear the high cost of countering aggression against Ukraine,” he concluded.


Global Perspectives Honored as Best New Journal

Global Perspectives, a transdisciplinary online journal edited by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, was named best new journal for 2021 by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. The council, made up of academic journal editors across all disciplines, praised the breadth and depth of the journal and its innovative structure. “The journal’s commitment to a new practice of the disciplines in the social sciences, one that refuses to replicate some of the old power structures of a century ago, is borne out in the innovative structure of an emerging scholars forum, where postdocs and assistant professors both contribute and participate in peer review of others,” the group said. “With an impressively diverse editorial board, and a healthy number of section editors, each with their own advisory board, this journal’s structure seems to offer a balance of breadth and depth worthy of the name.” Published by the University of California Press, Global Perspectives seeks to advance social science research and debates in a globalizing world. Anheier, who is also a senior professor of sociology and past president of the Hertie School in Berlin, said the award is “further encouragement to the novel approach of the journal to focus on high-quality academic contributions that do not fit into conventional disciplinary and national boundaries. Being recognized as such and so prominently by our peers in scholarly publishing is indeed a great honor.” The award was announced Jan. 8 at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association, the U.S. professional association for scholars of language and literature.


Anheier on Germany’s Modern Angst

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier wrote a Project Syndicate book review examining Germany’s undercurrent of anxiety as a new coalition government takes power. “German political life so far has been spared from the ravages of Brexit-style magical thinking or American-style polarization,” Anheier wrote. But as the 16-year tenure of Chancellor Angela Merkl comes to an end, “there is an abiding sense of unease in German society — a suspicion that things are changing, and not for the better.” Anheier summarized four recent books that address the crises of collective and individual identity that are part of the contemporary German experience; each book offers a starkly different conclusion. Anheier noted that, like many wealthy Western countries, Germany seems to be caught in a constant state of disquietude, despite all it has going for it. He concluded, “The post-Merkel era is as likely to bring disruption as it is to preserve continuity with the recent past.”