Like most global initiatives, The Great Reset (TGR) has created a lot of controversy, with conspiracy theories being surprisingly prevalent. In order to address them, we must understand the initiative as proposed by the World Economic Forum. Launched during the pandemic, it aims to rethink and change the way the global economy operates. By diverting investments into technological innovation and environmentally friendly industries, it hopes to promote sustainable growth in the future. Some additional means to achieve this would include the creation of digital infrastructure, and conversions to 5G internet and electric cars.
Although the plan was backed by many world leaders, it has faced a tremendous amount of backlash, with the arguments against it fairly diverse. From accusing Justin Trudeau (who endorses the initiative) of trying to introduce a socialist agenda into Canada, to those who believe that this is a step towards the new world order. (An infamous conspiracy theory that hypothesizes a totalitarian world government) Due to the sensitive political nature of some of these claims, and the sheer impossibility of others, I will focus on the economic aspects against the TGR, and examine how it could shape the future of the global economy.
Is there any merit to these claims? While some of the arguments are outlandish and simply laughable, some are grounded and have legitimate points. The first of which is embodied in Bryan Griffin's article “The Great Reset? No thanks.”, which argues that this is a movement towards a more socialist economy across the globe. He further says that not only is this a regression to a pre-free trade global economy, economic freedom would be severely restricted, likening a post TGR economy to that of a feudal, monarchy-centric economy.
I find this argument inapplicable in modern times. The belief in the divine right of kings (as purported by thinkers like Filmer) was one of the reasons why they held so much power for so long, an idea that has lost its prevalence over time. While the economic hardships of the old ages make for a striking metaphor, I find it hard to imagine it making a comeback any time soon, and I strongly doubt that TGR will bring any of those characteristics back into the global economy.
One argument that appears legitimate is the wave of automation that will inevitably follow this “fourth industrial revolution”. In his recent bid for the American Presidential election, Andrew Yang warned the world about automation, a warning that raised him 41 million USD during his campaign. In the efforts to promote sustainable development, we may see mass deployment of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and literal robots automating many processes in commerce. Electric cars and their infrastructure may eliminate the need for gas stations, auto shops and the employment it carries. “Smart” shopping assistants designed to cut down household food waste may replace grocery store employees. Automation as an issue has been around for a while, but the infrastructural changes put forward by TGR may accelerate this process. A shrinking scope for employment, coupled with a growing population could exacerbate existing socio-economic problems like income inequality, crime, and strains on public services, not to mention the more gritty problems such as worsening social cohesion, tensions between socioeconomic groups, and a fall in real happiness for the population.
To start solving these problems, we need to talk about them. Unemployment due to the pandemic has grabbed headlines, but we also need to beware of the very real possibility that some of these jobs won’t come back, where companies would have spent the money to invest in automation. Although some view it to be a latent issue, I would argue that it has crept up to us, and can severely impact the global economy, worsening the existing crisis. In my opinion, a range of policies must be deployed to combat this.
Promote tertiary education, or vocational training in new industries. This policy will equip many with what is required to find employment in a dynamic market, especially one where skills relating to information technology and STEM are more sought after.
Invest in public service development. Though arguably counter-intuitive, technological advancements in public services will serve as foundations to improve their efficiency in the long run. They must be equipped to combat shortages from a growing, aging population.
Strengthen workers’ unions. Automation, and the threat of it will allow many employers to leverage a lower salary for many of their employees. While not a permanent solution, this policy will alleviate some pressure on the market until a generational shift of skillsets is achieved.
What about the conspiracies? As I mentioned, many of the conspiracy theories are baseless, outlandish and even hilarious at times. However, there are some very real problems that The Great Reset could present. I strongly believe that support and relief programs should be used in tandem with the initiative. Hopefully, this will push the global economy into one that allows us not only to harness the full power of technology and sustainable development, but to also ensure a good livelihood for those who populate it.