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Peut-on sauver le capitalisme mondial ?

LONDRES – La politique d'anxiété économique a conduit les électeurs actuels au Royaume Uni et aux États-Unis entre les mains des populistes. Si seulement, à en croire les idées reçues, les économies pouvaient revenir à un taux plus « normal » du PIB et de la croissance de la productivité, la vie serait plus facile pour plus de gens, le sentiment anti-establishment déclinerait et la politique reviendrait elle aussi à la « normale ». Puis le capitalisme, la mondialisation et la démocratie pourraient poursuivre leur marche en avant.

Mais une telle pensée reflète une extrapolation à partir d'une période largement aberrante de l'histoire. Cette période est révolue et les forces qui l'ont soutenue ont peu de chances de concorder à nouveau de sitôt. L'innovation technologique et la démographie sont à présent un inconvénient plutôt qu'un avantage pour la croissance et l'ingénierie financière ne pourra pas sauver la mise.

La période aberrante de l'histoire est le siècle qui a suivi la Guerre civile aux États-Unis, au cours de laquelle des percées dans l'énergie, l'électrification, les télécommunications et les transports ont fondamentalement changé le cours des sociétés. Les vies humaines sont devenues nettement plus productives et l'espérance de vie a augmenté de façon spectaculaire. La population mondiale a augmenté de plus de 50 % entre 1800 et 1900, puis a plus que doublé au cours des 50 années suivantes. Les économies ont connu une croissance beaucoup plus rapide par rapport aux siècles précédents.

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