WHO owns the future? With the Eurozone apparently powerless before the once unthinkable prospect of a Greek exit, and with Ed Miliband’s Labour trying to drag British politics back to the 1970s, optimism seems to be as weak as winter sunshine.
Yet I found a new source of hope this week, in the Pew 2014 survey of global attitudes. Not, admittedly, in the world’s advanced economies, where it found a median of 65 per cent believed today’s children would be worse off than their parents. No, the heartening figures were those for developing economies and emerging markets, where overall 50 per cent or more believed their children would be better off than them. In Vietnam, a startling 94 per cent believed the next generation would be better off. That’s even more than China’s 85 per cent. Both were far from the UK’s shocking score of just 23 per cent who believed in a better future.
The countries that look forward with hope have seen at first hand how embracing entrepreneurship, markets and trade can cut poverty down to size. That is also apparent in their attitudes to tax. Both emerging markets and developing economies overwhelmingly back low taxes on the rich and business to reduce inequality.
We used to know this, too. Now there is talk of slow growth as the new normal of the developed world. It is catastrophic folly. What the fast-growing nations have discovered, and we are in danger of forgetting, is that only capitalist growth means widespread plenty. Without it, we are doomed to fall back into the zero-sum politics of division and resentment now rising in Europe.
The future belongs to countries that believe in creating new wealth. If we do not regain that ambition, our future will not just be stagnant. It will stink.
Marc Sidwell is City A.M.’s executive editor