The World Economic Forum is warning of a “dystopian future” should problems currently facing world economies continue unaddressed. The warning came in the body’s report Global Risks 2012: Seventh Edition. The report, released today, points to five “centers of gravity” that shape the multitude of risks currently facing the modern world:
- “Chronic fiscal imbalances” in national budgets threatens to undermine worldwide economic recovery and growth.
- “Greenhouse gas emissions” present a threat to climatic stability.
- “Global governance failure” could result if the social contracts governing the relationships between citizen and state unravel.
- “Unsustainable population growth” will likely put a major strain on world resources already struggling to meet the needs of its current population.
- “Critical systems failure” is a real possibility in an age when the world relies on increasingly interconnected virtual systems and networks.
The Forum warns that the unrest and social upheaval that defined 2011 could not only continue, but become more violent and widespread if global governments don’t do more to address issues like ballooning income inequality, lack of job creation, providing for aging populations. One statistic was quite telling:
“Their [protesters] discontent is exacerbated by the starkness of income disparities: the poorest half of the global population owns barely 1% of the global wealth, while the world’s top 1% owns close to half of the world’s assets.”
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in free enterprise, individual achievement, and enjoying the fruits of personal labor. Capitalism, however, has its limits. When the six heirs of the Sam Walton fortune control more wealth than the bottom thirty percent of the U.S. population, I believe there’s something wrong with that.
Then, there’s the issue of burgeoning budget deficits. This problem has been highlighted in recent months as credit rating agencies such as Standard and Poor’s have moved to downgrade the credit ratings of many nations that it believes are doing too little to counteract their budgetary issues.     Whether or not national governments have the ability to fix these issues or not, polling is showing that vast numbers of the world’s denizens don’t believe they can (or will).
“General expectations about the potential of the world economy may not be met due to the interplay between fiscal imbalances and demographic trends. The resulting disappointment is amplified by a growing sense that wealth and power are becoming more entrenched in the hands of political and financial elites.”
All of these and other factors are combining, the report states, to contribute to the possibility of a “dystopian future;” one where rising nationalism, declining economies, and the potential for state failure could combine to create a highly uncertain and violence-ridden global climate. That is, unless people can spur politicians into taking action to preempt the Forum’s bleaker predictions.
The report has an interactive website that I recommend checking out here.