January 27, 2017
The last 40 years had been an extraordinary times. Life expectancy has gone up by about 25 years, income has gone up for majority of people, and illiteracy has gone down significantly. There’s never been a better time to be alive, and yet so many people feel anxious and so many people feel that this is one of the most dangerous times. Brexit, Poland, Hungary, USA – we can now talk about the new trend which is spreading throughout the world – mistrust towards the elites.
Globalization has been a good thing for most people. Now, the process is getting more complex and the changes are more rapid. Urbanization, integration, coming together and the use of new technology leads to revolutionary changes. It is an intense period of deep change and disruption that may never be repeated. A seismic shift in living and thinking is taking place due to the rapid and all-embracing introduction of new technologies to daily life, which has changed the way we communicate, work, shop, socialize and do almost everything else.
The future will be even more unpredictable. Globalization has been the buzzword during these years and it brought extraordinary results. Can this process be sustained or are we seeing a threat of trade protectionism?
Most pundits agree that globalization is still a good thing but there are also downsides. There are two Achilles’ heels of globalization that need to be taken seriously. The first Achilles’ heel is a growing inequality. Too many people have been left behind and they are not enjoying the benefits of globalization. What we see today can be called ‘a rebellion of the forgotten’. This needs to be changed by improving the system. The benefits of globalization should be spread more equitably, otherwise we can have a replay of the Renaissance. Although the achievements of the XV century Florence in the field of art, business and science were amazing in any respect, the Medici family (that ruled Florence at that time) was sent off by the mob. Intellectuals were persecuted and books burned. This process can be repeated if we are careless.
The second Achilles’ heel is complexity. The world is getting more complex every year. Even the best minds in the best institutions do not know what will happen in the future. This is in technology, this is in the area of politics and this is in the area of finance. People need to be better prepared and better trained. Otherwise there will be a sense of helplessness.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year prof. Ian Goldin from the University of Oxford, wisely said:
“You can’t stop managing an entangled environment by disconnecting. This is the fundamental mistake of Brexit, of Trump, and of so many others. We are not simply connected. We are entangled. Our lives, our destinies are intertwined. What happens in China, what happens in Indonesia, what happens in India, what happens across Europe, and what happens in North America, and Latin America will affect all of us in dramatic new ways. The idea that somehow we can forge our future in an insular way, even for the biggest countries like the U.S., is a fantasy.”
And yet, prof. Goldin said, if the benefits of globalization are not spread more equitably, the world will be in turbulence.
It seems that some reform of the capitalism is badly needed. This is going to be a huge challenge for the scholars and for the lawyers too. Globalization itself has transformed the legal profession in an unprecedented way. Not so long ago, a lawyer was a purely domestic profession (with the exception of international law), who applied only the law produced by the national legislation authorities. Now lawyers have become the backbone of the globalization process. Even a simple cross-border transaction or a cross-border divorce case requires now a co-operation of at least two lawyers from different countries, who not only apply domestic laws, but also conventions and EU law.
We are living in a new world. New awareness will have to arise. It’s going to require innovation. It’s going to require an understanding that globalization by itself is neither good or bad. It has to be properly regulated and based on the rule of law.
It could be the best century for the humanity ever or it could be its worst.
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