The former president of the United States, Barack Obama, has advocated this Friday for a “more inclusive and sustainable capitalism” to strengthen democratic systems against the advance of authoritarianism. He has done so at the so-called Copenhagen Democracy Summit, an initiative launched five years ago by the Alliance of Democracies, an organization created by former Danish Prime Minister and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Before participating in a conversation with several young people, the American leader began his speech with a mention of the war in Ukraine, which, in his opinion, “recalls the darkest history of Europe”. “But we are also witness to the heroic Ukrainian resistance.”
The former president, who headed the US government until November 2017 and is now focused on his foundation, has pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not achieving his goals within Ukraine and beyond.” “NATO has stepped forward and become stronger, Finland and Sweden seek rapid accession, countries have welcomed displaced people from Ukraine with open arms, while Russia has suffered a cut in resources and income” .
“But make no mistake, this war is far from over,” Obama continued, stressing that Western support for Ukraine “must remain strong, firm and sustained until this conflict is resolved.”
He has stressed that Putin’s “contempt for the law” “is not happening in isolation.” “We are seeing democratic backsliding on all continents. Emboldened autocrats are ramping up repression, targeting minority groups, and often flouting international law.”
He has also expressed concern about leaders trying to undermine democratic institutions after taking office. In this sense, he has given as an example the assault on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which, according to the parliamentary committee investigating it, was the “culmination” of an attempted coup in which then-President Donald Trump he was supported on the ground by the extreme right-wing group Proud Boys. “In my country, the forces that unleashed the mob violence on our Capitol continue to churn out disinformation and conspiracy theories,” Obama said.
“It is not enough to say what we are against”
In his opinion, the recent events “should bring out of complacency” those who defend the democratic order. “After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a feeling that history would inevitably give way to a democratic world. We have remembered that democracy is not inevitable nor is it executed by itself”.
Obama has pointed out that in order to “win” in the “combat of ideas” between those who believe in democracy and “those who are convinced that the old way of doing things” is the best, “it is not enough to reaffirm a status quo staggering to give a new coat of paint to the existing order”. The existing order, he continued, “has been shaken from the foundations, by globalization and the financial crisis and the social media by the increase in inequality and migration and climate change”
“It is not enough to say what we are against, we have to clearly describe what we are for,” he said. “We will have to rebuild democracy and its institutions, so that they work better for more people, for this new era.” He has stressed that democracy “is much more than elections” and at the same time has defended that no democracy “is perfect”, and that injustice “is embedded in all societies”.
Reduce the gap between rich and poor
The Democratic leader has argued that in order to build “stronger” democracies and push back this trend towards authoritarianism, work must be done in several areas. The first, he opines, is to “develop models for a more inclusive and sustainable capitalism so that democracy flourishes.”
“I believe in the market economy, they are more efficient and innovative than other systems, also because, well structured, they are compatible with freedom. Scandinavian countries, like Denmark, show it”, she has said. “But I also think that the version of capitalism that has come to dominate the world economy has come to corrode democracy when you have trillions of dollars moving around the world in the blink of an eye outside the control of any sovereign country, distant companies operating outside the scope of national regulation or oversight or tax collection without regard to their impact on local communities or workers.”
He has stressed that globalization – of which he has said that China is the “big winner” – has taken income inequality “to levels not seen in generations in rich countries”, has amplified the loss of bargaining power of workers , has stunted wage growth and reduced “the status of many workers, perhaps for all but a narrow group of people.”
“When people feel financially insecure, feel like the game is rigged, anger rises. Resentment grows when democratic governments cannot respond to these frustrations. People become cynical towards their leaders and the political system,” she has said. “When the gap between rich and poor widens, people feel fewer obligations and social trust declines, and in the absence of solidarity, people are more likely to resort to populist appeals of strong men offering someone to to blame, whether it be immigrants or minorities or foreign powers, or opposition parties or even democracy itself.
In this sense, he has insisted that, in order to strengthen democracies, we must pay attention to the economy. “We have to make the global economy more responsive to workers, families, people and representative governance.” The goal, in his opinion, must be clear: reduce the wealth gap, “expand the middle classes, give people back a sense of control over their livelihoods, make private companies more responsible.”
In addition, he has pointed out that it is necessary to “revitalize” political institutions so that people “feel that participation is worthwhile”, devote “more time and energy to building a democratic culture” and “detoxify” the discourse, in particular “the plague of misinformation, conspiracy theories and hate that has contaminated” politics.