Can the planet handle more middle-class humans?
In just 10 years, the world for the first time will be more middle-class than poor. That will tax resources and set up conflicts. But with more people free from just trying to survive, the arts and sciences should boom as well.
Let's have a round of applause for an astounding milestone in individual achievement, family prosperity, and community improvement around the globe. In just a decade the world will, for the first time in history, change from being mostly poor to being mostly middle-class.Skip to next paragraph
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Think about it. The third planet from the sun – not the closest,which burns hottest, nor the farthest and coldest, but the one in the Goldilocks middle – will by definition be middle-class, at least for the species that thinks it is in charge.
In a special "Future Focus" report, Monitor correspondents focused on three countries that account for the lion’s share of the growth: China, India, and Brazil. Each is becoming more middle-class in its own way. In India, reporter Ben Arnoldy shows how it is a family affair. In Brazil, Julia Michaels examines the social network that helped one woman rise from poverty. In China, Peter Ford looks at the massive upward mobility engineered by Beijing’s capitalist/command economy.
Historically, the growth of the middle class has presaged democracy. Middle classes throughout history have wanted a government that reconciles their differences and reflects their interests. Since Athens, they have rejected the idea that one person born into privilege or good with a sword or deemed to be divinely ordained is entitled to rule.
“Non quis sed quid” is the ancient motto: “not who but what.” If you can do the job, you’ve got the job.
The middle class is not uniformly virtuous, of course. Too many middle-class Germans voted for Hitler. Too many middle-class Americans and South Africans supported institutional racism. Those in the middle have fallen for propaganda and fads. Because only a slight drop in income can cause them to fall back into poverty, they are susceptible to fear and doubt.