There’s never been a better time to be alive.
So why the globalization backlash asks the World Economic Forum?
The WEF explains that in aggregate terms, the human race has never had it so good.
- Life expectancy has risen by more in the past 50 years than in the previous 1,000.
- When the Berlin Wall fell, two-fifths of humanity lived in extreme poverty. Now it’s one-eighth.
- Global illiteracy has dropped from one-half to one-sixth in the same span of time.
- With a few tragic exceptions, a child born almost anywhere today can expect to grow up healthier, wealthier and smarter than at any other time in history.
- We’re more connected, thanks principally to the end of the Cold War, fresh waves of democratization, China’s emergence from autarky, and the advent of the internet.
- The political map of the world has been redrawn. Market economics has circumnavigated the globe.
A divided world
The WEF gives some thoughts as to why we’re experiencing a backlash around the world – we’re more divided that ever:
At the same time, we have rarely felt so divided.
While walls between countries are coming down, within countries they are going up everywhere.
Statistical proof of overall well-being is cold comfort to a middle class whose real wages have stagnated, or to poor people in the US and other so-called “rich” countries whose poverty has deepened.
The bottom-fifth of Americans were earning more money 25 years ago.
They also had a greater chance of moving up the economic ladder, the lower rungs of which have now been sawed off.
And we have rarely felt so vulnerable.
As populations, capital and production systems have shifted – massively and rapidly – we as individuals have become ensnared in a transnational tangle of choices and burdens, enablers and obstacles, interdependencies and conflicts.
Pensioners and home-owners have seen their savings decimated by unforeseen financial risks.
Workers have lost their jobs to overseas strangers escaping from poverty; those whose jobs stayed onshore are losing them to machines.
Farmers suffer crop failure due to climate change.
Citizens rage against elites who siphon off urgently needed public monies into foreign bank accounts.
Other people’s everyday choices on the other side of the world – about what energy they use, what products they consume, what medicines they take or how they secure their data – threaten us unintentionally.
Equally, our choices impact them.
In an increasingly open world, we’ve begun to blame more and more of our frustrations on each other.
It looks like (as always) we’ll have interesting times ahead – times of volatility and change – both economically and politically.
According tot he WEF, the answer could be:
To accept responsibility, to start fixing the mistakes we’ve made, and with bold actions remind us all that, while we may be more vulnerable, our collective potential has never been greater?
Read more: World Economic Forum