The following is an excerpt from Ian Goldin & Chris Kutarna | May 24, 2016 | Huffingtonpost.com |
In aggregate terms, the human race has never had it so good. Life expectancy has risen by more in the past fifty years than in the previous one thousand. 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. And 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.
At the same time, we have rarely felt so divided. While walls between countries are going down, within countries they are going up everywhere. Statistical proof of overall wellbeing 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 twenty-five 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. Integrating societies and systems generates many benefits, but the flipside is growing interdependency. Pensioners and home owners have seen their savings decimated by unforeseen financial risks. Workers have lost their jobs overseas to 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 urgently needed public monies off 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.
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