Historians may disagree on the detail, but most would agree that a desire to have democracy and capitalism lay at heart of why the Berlin wall came down. Many believed this was it – liberal democracy and free market capitalism would sweep the world as the undeniable logic of both systems defeated all the alternatives. To be honest as a 15 year-old watching the fall of communism, I can remember writing much the same in a history essay the time. But things haven’t quite worked out like that, judging by a survey today.
Arguably, capitalism has fared better than democracy. Some of the world’s most powerful countries – Iran, China, Russia – either have no democracy, or have had to answer serious questions about how free and fair their elections are. And there’s no obvious sign that that will change soon.
Capitalism though, and the globalisation it’s brought to the world, has marched on. Even countries like China have found ways of making it work with their single party form of government. Bar what Cuba, Venezuela and a few others are trying, few challenge the basic principles the economic system the vast majority of us use.
Which is why I’m particularly interested in a BBC survey out today. Here are a few of its findings:
– only 11% of those questioned across 27 countries said that it was working well.
– Most thought regulation and reform of the capitalist system were necessary.
– More than 29,000 people in 27 countries were questioned. In only two countries, the United States and Pakistan, did more than one in five people feel that capitalism works well as it stands.
– Almost a quarter – 23% of those who responded – feel it is fatally flawed. That is the view of 43% in France, 38% in Mexico and 35% in Brazil.
These seem like startling figures to me. Does this just represent current anger at the economic downturn and the perceived causes of it? Or is this something more fundamental?
Are you giving up on economic principles that as much as politics motivated so many in 1989? Has the belief that capitalism was indisputably the fairest and best way to organise the way we work and trade started to wane?