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Layers of power can be viewed as a triangle of governance: Governments, companies and the third sector at each apex, and the individual in the middle. There are early indicators that this is in flux. New financial players - private (hedge funds, private equity) and public (sovereign wealth funds) - are exerting influence locally and internationally. One prediction suggests that sovereign wealth funds would exceed the US economy by 2015. In addition, the line between private and public continues to blur e.g. in the UK, a third of all public services are now delivered by the private and voluntary sectors. On both sides of the nation state, supra-regional and local government grows in importance. Devolved local power might extend to independence in Scotland and elsewhere. But super-blocs have obstacles to overcome, as witnessed by the EU. New Philanthropists are adopting entrepreneurial methods to address societies’ big issues. Some see this power as something less attractive with a new “superclass”, making traditional governments obsolete. New ways of connecting – social networking – are also empowering the individual. Will there be a decline in the role for national governments? Not if you consider one of their oldest manifestations of power – tax. The average tax burden in the OECD is 36.2%, 10.4% higher than it was in 1965.

This is part of Outsights 21 Drivers for the 21st Century ™, a future-orientated scan of the 21 key forces shaping this century.