MUNICH – I must confess that I am a firm believer in the benefits of globalization. To my mind, the gradual interlinking of regions, countries, and people is the most profoundly positive development of our time.
But a populist has now assumed the United States presidency by campaigning on a platform of stark economic nationalism and protectionism. And in many countries, public discourse is dominated by talk of globalization’s alleged “losers,” and the perceived need for new policies to stem the rise of populist discontent.
When I was born, the world’s population was 2.5 billion. I vividly recall a time in my life when many people feared that starvation would soon run rampant, gaps between the rich and poor would grow ever wider, and everything would eventually come crashing down.
We now live in a world with 7.5 billion people, and yet the share of people living in absolute poverty has declined rapidly, while the gap between rich and poor countries has steadily closed. Around the world, average life expectancy has increased from 48 to 71 years – albeit with significant differences between countries – and overall per capita income has grown by 500%.