It is true, of course, over the last several years that we’ve seen democracies faced with serious challenges. And I want to mention two that have an impact here in Greece, haven an impact in the United States, and are having an impact around the world.
The first involves the paradox of a modern, global economy. The same forces of globalization and technology and integration that have delivered so much progress, have created so much wealth, have also revealed deep fault lines. Around the world, integration and closer cooperation, and greater trade and commerce, and the Internet — all have improved the lives of billions of people — lifted families from extreme poverty, cured diseases, helped people live longer, gave them more access to education and opportunity than at any time in human history.
I’ve often said to young people in the United States, if you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be — you didn’t know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you’d be born, whether you were going to be a man or a woman — if you had to choose blindly what moment you’d want to be born you’d choose now. Because the world has never, collectively, been wealthier, better educated, healthier, less violent than it is today. That’s hard to imagine, given what we see in the news, but it’s true. And a lot of that has to do with the developments of a integrated, global economy.
But trends underway for decades have meant that in many countries and in many communities there have been enormous disruptions. Technology and automation mean that goods can be produced with fewer workers. It means jobs and manufacturing can move across borders where wages are lower or rights are less protected. And that means that workers and unions oftentimes have less leverage to bargain for better wages, better benefits, have more difficulty competing in the global marketplace. Hardworking families worry their kids may not be better off than they were because of this global competition.