Thursday, January 26, 2017

Nothing but a Circus: Misadventures among the Powerful, by Daniel Levin

Staff review by Chris Saliba

An insider tells us what really happens behind the closed doors of global business and politics. Entertaining and revealing. 

Have you ever wondered what happens at senior levels of government, business and bureaucracy? What type of intellect, temperament and personality it takes to make the important decisions that affects the lives of millions? In this revealing book, Swiss-American lawyer and economic advisor Daniel Levin spills the beans.

The truth, according to Levin, is not so pretty. The elite movers and shakers of the world are often vain, self-obsessed and greedy. Good policy, as a rule, takes a back seat to the personal whims, prejudices and fancies of politicians and businessmen. This is a world served by an army of courtiers, gatekeepers and flatterers, all intent on self-promotion. The institutions of politics and business exist within a bubble of meaningless rules, deference to authority and silly etiquette, all designed to keep a self-deluded elite in power.

Daniel Levin has worked across the globe, from Washington to the UN, from Russia to China. Levin also has a special interest in Africa, which has seen him working with governments there. In each of the interactions with officials from those countries and institutions, Levin describes zany and logic-defying behaviour, unless of course the logic is to maintain power. In Russia Levin finds it hard to pick the political allegiances of members of the Duma (Russia's parliament), so chameleon-like are their colours. Dealings with a Chinese business official goes awry when the official loses his temper, declaring that the Chinese are sick of being humiliated and will one day rule the world. A trip into The Gambia in West Africa is almost derailed, until Levin pays the required bribes. Working with elites in Washington and the UN is no better, staffed as they are by myopic, single-minded careerists.

What saves Nothing but a Circus from being a slash-your-wrists depressing read is Daniel Levin's gift for dialogue and explaining complex matters. He brings his rogue's gallery vividly to life, capturing accents, eccentric personalities and various comic scenes with brilliant economy. We can only hope his book will provide some kind of public service by giving readers an insight into how global institutions and governments are run.

Nothing but a Circus: Misadventures among the Powerful, by Daniel Levin. Published by Allen Lane. ISBN:  9780241299715 RRP: $35

(Released 30th January, 2017)

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