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Investor and Philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen Discusses New Book with NYU Students

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The US ... is transparent, but elects leaders based on popularity and monetary resources rather than competency and merit. - Nicolas Berggruen

President John Sexton and Dean Peter Henry welcomed Stern alumnus Nicolas Berggruen (BS '81), chairman of the Berggruen Institute on Governance, to campus this month for a discussion with NYU students on his new book, Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century. During an in-depth interview with Dean Henry, Berggruen argued that a new system of what he calls “intelligent governance,” which adapts to the needs of different cultures and environments, is required to meet the challenges facing world leaders today. He emphasized the need for a system that balances both inclusivity and efficiency.

Comparing the governance systems in China and the United States, Berggruen pointed to several key differences. China, he explained, is run like a corporation: “The country plans for the long-term and rewards hard work, but also lacks in transparency. The US, on the other hand, is transparent, but elects leaders based on popularity and monetary resources rather than competency and merit.”

Incorporating elements from the East and West, Berggruen offers another possible solution for governance – having both an appointed official and an elected official. He reasoned that elected officials are often too focused on the short-term (i.e., the next election), which hinders their ability to make decisions for long-term sustainability. He pointed to the approval ratings of appointed officials (e.g., the Supreme Court), which are generally high as compared with elected officials (e.g., the US Congress), which are at record lows in the US.

Describing the Berggruen Institute as a “do tank” instead of a “think tank,” he encouraged students to get involved. He also credited Stern Professors Michael Spence and Nouriel Roubini for contributing to two of his organization’s main initiatives, the 21st Century Council and the Council for the Future of Europe.

Reflecting fondly on his time at NYU Stern, Berggruen admitted that he was not a straight-A student: “New York City has so many temptations."

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