“When governments fear people, there is freedom. When people fear governments, there is tyranny.”Thomas Jefferson
In different parts of the world, there is enormous disappointment with our democratic institutions and processes as well as with the results that we have obtained from them. It seems to be a widely accepted conclusion that the movements towards liberalism and globalization have created huge wealth but also unprecedented inequality. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, income inequality is at its highest level. The average income of the richest 10 percent of the population is approximately 9.5 times higher than that of the poorest 10 percent. If we measure it by assets, the inequality is even higher. The top 10 percent own half of the total wealth, while the bottom 40 percent hold only 3 percent. Latin America is the best example of this brutal disparity. And although we have seen fantastic development thanks to important technological and productivity advances that perhaps no other economic system could have achieved, we are also inheriting a world where there are almost a billion people who subsist on a dollar a day.
Although it seems that we are realizing that the economic model based on globalization and free market should be reviewed, the possible substitute models are currently very poor. Transformation experiments are taking place in many parts of the world with political and economic models that do not make sense, more based on good intentions than on realistic and well-structured programs, without real effectiveness in the short and medium terms, and that sometimes could do more harm than good to the most unprotected sectors. It is urgent to change the world order but, in our urgency, we are replacing it with frankly questionable improvisations.
I think that this is an enormous opportunity for different political movements worldwide – both left and right – in the sense that they could reinvent themselves as viable and credible options, led by responsible, intelligent and well-prepared politicians. It is very easy to appropriate the traditional flags of equality for electoral purposes, because at the end of the day, who does not want more equality? Who does not want more social justice? Who does not want to end poverty? The devil is in the details. Magic solutions do not exist or are proven wrong in the long term, but they can be very good at winning votes for the next election.
I think that transformation alternatives that go beyond the traditional divisions between left and right, between liberals and conservatives, between Democrats and Republicans are urgently required. The simplistic, dualistic classification of the political world must be overcome. We require models that ensure solidarity towards the poorest, but not at the expense and the destruction of the richest. We should seek a strong State accompanied by an even stronger private sector, and we should not see economic success neither as a crime nor as an absolute and final indicator. We need a model that induces the economic development of individuals and companies, but without leaving large sectors of the population on the sidelines. The risk of democracy has always been the possibility of irresponsible manipulation of voters. It is our duty as businessmen, but also as citizens, to denounce and fight against this manipulation so that democracy in the world works, and so that we have realistic political options to reinvent ourselves towards a more just society.
Managing Partner of Nuricumbo + Partners. His work as a consultant has focused around CFO services and challenges, in companies of all sizes, both in Mexico and abroad. He began his career at PWC. Later, he held the position of internal audit manager for Young & Rubicam and The Interpublic Group, two international advertising groups, working for five years in New York City and performing audit projects in many countries.