Rise of the Global Middle Class

America has had the biggest demand in the global economy for so long that we can't remember what it was like when that wasn't the case. But that's all about to change. I'll let you in on a little secret about globalization: It is demand that determines power, not supply. Consumption is king; everybody..

America has had the biggest demand in the global economy for so long that we can't remember what it was like when that wasn't the case. But that's all about to change.

I'll let you in on a little secret about globalization: It is demand that determines power, not supply. Consumption is king; everybody else serves at will. So it ain't about who's got the biggest military complex but who's got the biggest middle class. Everybody's got the dream. What matters is who can pay for it.For as long as we can remember, that's been America-the consumer around which the entire global economy revolved. What's it like to be the global demand center? The world revolves around your needs, your desires, and your ambitions. Your favorite stories become the world's most popular entertainment. Your fears become the dominant political issues. You are the E. F. Hutton of consumption: When you talk, everybody listens. That was the role the Boomers played for decades in America and-by extension-around the world through their unprecedented purchasing power. But that dominance is nearing an end.In coming decades, it won't belong to Americans, but to Asians. So say hello to your new master, corporate America: Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Chindia.The rise of the Asian middle class, a binary system centered in China and India, alters the very gravity of the global economy. The vast sucking sound you hear is not American jobs going overseas, but damn near every natural resource being drawn into Asia's yawning maw. Achieving middle-class status means shifting from needs to wants, so Asia's rise means that Asia's wants will determine our planet's future-perhaps its very survival. And as any environmentalist with a calculator knows, it isn't possible for China and India to replicate the West's consumption model, so however this plays out, the world must learn to live with their translation of the American dream.As for the new middle class's relative size, think bread truck, not breadbasket: Over the next couple of decades, the percent of the world's population that can be considered middle class, judging by purchasing power, will almost double, from just over a quarter of the population to more like half. The bulk of this increase will occur in China and India, where the percentage shifts will be similar. So if we round off China and India today as having 2.5 billion people, then their middle class will jump in numerical size from being roughly equivalent to the population of North America or the European Union to being their combined total.
The vast sucking sound you hear is not American jobs going overseas, but damn near every natural resource being drawn into Asia's yawning maw.
No, it won't be your father's middle class-not at first. Much of that Asian wave now crests at a household income level that most Americans would associate with the working poor, but it will grow into solid middle-class status over the coming years through urbanization and job migration from manufacturing to services. And for global companies that thrive on selling to the middle class, this is already where all the sales growth is occurring, and it's only going to get bigger. As far as global business is concerned, there is no sweeter spot than an emerging demand center, because we're talking about an entire generation in need of branding-more than 500 million teenagers looking to forge consumer identities.There are also essentially two unknowable wild cards associated with the rise of China's and India's middle classes: First, how can they achieve an acceptable standard of living without replicating the West's resource-wasteful version? And second, what would happen if that middle-class lifestyle was suddenly threatened or even reversed? The planet must have an answer to the first question, even as it hopes to avoid ever addressing the second. Here's where those two fears may converge: As their income rises, their diets change. Not just taking in more food, but far more resource-intensive food, like dairy and meat. Right now, China imports vast amounts of food and India is just barely self-sufficient in the all-important grains category. Both are likely to suffer losses in agricultural production in coming years and decades, thanks to global warming, just as internal demand balloons with that middle class. Meanwhile, roughly one-third of world's advanced-lifestyle afflictions-like diabetes or cancer-will be found in China and India by 2030. Toss in the fact that much of the population lives along the low-lying coasts, and our notional middle-class couple could eventually cast the deciding global votes on the issue of whether or not global warming is worth addressing aggressively.Whoever captures the middle-class flag in coming years will have to possess the soft power necessary to shape globalization's soul in this century, because humanity's very survival depends on our generation's ability to channel today's rising social anger into a lengthy period of social reform. This era's global capitalism must first be shamed (populism) and then tamed (progressivism), just as America's rapacious version was more than a century ago. Today's global financial crisis simply marks the opening bell in a worldwide fight that is destined to go many rounds.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

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Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


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Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

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Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

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Low-flow shower head


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Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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