Rise of global middle class?
The May 23 cover stories on the "Rise of the Global Middle Class" for the recent "Future Focus" issue were provocative, but also disputable. I suppose it depends on how you define "middle class," but the chasm between rich and poor appears to be widening, not only in the United States but in India and other countries as well.
While more Indians can buy automobiles now, there are also increasing numbers of superwealthy and impoverished Indians. The projected size of the surging global middle class doesn't acknowledge the overall world population statistics. You might also do a story on the "Rise of the global billionaires" and another on the "Rise of the global poor."
"Up with the middle" notes that the growth of the middle class in other countries doesn't parallel the growth of the US middle class in part because American society is more individualistic and less communal. But these terms have been painted with a broad brush.
Take one example of a communal-oriented country with a rising middle class: Colombia. Diesel jeans sell like hotcakes, though the average person has a low income. This is status advertisement, and it isn't about the family.
On the other hand, America actually has a comparatively good track record of communalism. In many other parts of the world, forming a line is not quite the same as in the US. Someone is always slipping in front of you. This is individualism, but not the kind where someone has an idea for a business and builds it. Individualism doesn't necessarily exclude communalism. The Bill of Rights, for example, is a document that supports both individual and common values.
It is encouraging to witness the progress in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) nations. At the same time, we should take to heart the reservations about how so much material progress can move people away from a sound spiritual path. In his commentary piece, "From finding food to finding self," Brink Lindsey wrote of such a sea change in social values that accompanies economic progress.
In the Monitor's View "In the fast lane to middle class," there is another point worth noting. Yes, "more people will be middle-class than poor" in another decade or so, but only because of the gargantuan populations of China and India. The populations of just the four BRIC nations total about 3 billion, and will soon account for 43 percent of the total world population.
So while the glass may be more than half full, so to speak, there will also remain a great emptiness. Our thoughts and actions should never lose sight of those billions in the world who remain poor. There is still much work to do about that.