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Reich & Fukuyama Launch Speaker Series

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Robert ReichFrancis Fukuyama

Internationally renowned thinkers and best-selling authors such as economist Robert Reich and political scientist Francis Fukuyama kicked off an expanded Speaker Series at I-House for 2011-12.

An expanded series of lectures by prominent thought leaders on provocative topics debuted this fall at I-House, linked to a new membership program. Five lectures over four months this fall tackled issues ranging from the dangers of globalization to political behavior and American foreign policy.

Political economist Robert Reich, and Stanford University political scientist Francis Fukuyama headlined the series, joined by I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia's ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, addressing "Making Sense of the Asian Century," as well as prominent Cal professor and renowned cognitive scientist George Lakoff discussing "Retaking Political Discourse," and national security expert, and former Obama-adminsitration Assistant Secretary for Global Defense, Michael Nacht on "Challenges to Obama's Foreign Policy."

Reich, a UC Berkeley public policy professor who served as U.S. labor secretary during the Clinton Administration, discussed in his September lecture what he called dangerous myths about globalization, namely that U.S. competitiveness depends on a race with other countries or foreign companies.

Countering these beliefs he explained America's job crisis is not caused by other countries taking jobs, but because "globalization, in combination with technology, has changed, not the number of jobs, but the composition of the workforce."

That change in workforce composition is not a foregone conclusion, he said. For example, in Germany, a successful exporter, where high precision engineering and manufacturing are specialties, workers continue to grow in number and maintain high pay levels compared to American workers.

A powerful rhetorician, Reich closed with a plea that his audience not succumb to pessimism about public institutions and the capacity of our government and institutions to do anything right. "Cynicism is the greatest enemy we have… If you remember nothing else that I say, remember that," he said.

In his Oct. 6 speech, Fukuyama, a prolific author whose work is linked to the rise of neoconservatism, discussed the "Origins of Political Order." The Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, highlighted points made in his new book by the same title.

Fukuyama said he wrote the book to explore how to rebuild political institutions in "failed states" like Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. That led him to research how the "ideal" Western state — his example is modern Denmark — came to be in the first place. But even "the Danes don't understand how they got to be Denmark," says Fukuyama.

He looked at how Western Europe "accidentally" developed key democratic institutions — rule of law, consent of the governed and accountability through governmental checks and balances — and compared it to China, which has become a modern industrial and economic powerhouse without these pillars of democracy.

The new I-House Membership Program provides members e-mails to links of lecture videos online and discounted tickets for those in the area if subscribing. The 2012 line-up will be announced in December – visit the Speaker Series page for details and for video links to the lectures above.