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Change is the nature of things, whether economic, political, religious, or even genomic. It can be slow or abrupt, but it is always inexorable.

Our focus here is on how globalization is equalizing international wealth. Inter-nation trading on the world scene is not much different from that on Main Street Memphis, Paris, Shanghai, or Cape Town. We barter, we trade. We exchange. This is the essence of market economies. Beginning with the Industrial Age, the most ready and adaptable societies leaped ahead. It was truly a great leap forward to borrow a famous metaphor. If you were part of it, it was great. But there was a catch.

The real wealth, mineral and human wealth, was mostly beyond the borders of the leapers. The human trait of dominance—writ large—tempted the industrializing nations to organize empires to pursue wealth at the expense of nations less developed. Wars among empires erupted—leading to still greater differentiation. WWII was a turning point of sorts in that the new weaponry was used that could put an end not only to competition, but humanity itself. Polarization was the initial result with the have-nots scrambling to grow and/or become weaponized. The rules of engagement among the superpowers changed dramatically, including those of economics.

Beneath all this was the exponential growth of science beyond mere economic growth. The face of empire could only change in the face of new technologies. Lesser nations suddenly had the same keys to the universe that the superpowers had. America and Europe exported jobs with seeming abandon. Moreover, the advanced economies became gluttons for energy, and that again changed the focus of empire; the era of global warming irreversibly began.

This is the long and short of it. In what follows, we back away from the gritty details and examine what it all means in a global world view.

In Econ 101 we learn, or should learn, that we are all linked together on this earth. The equation is simple and arose in antiquity, where I traded my fish for your silk, and so on. Eventually, it became convenient to invent money to standardize values. With that event, we could save money earned from selling our goods or services and use it to buy goods from a third party who could likewise buy something from you, or yet a fourth party. From that point on, the economy basically became one where my spending became your income and your spending became my income. We truly are globally interconnected economically. That historically recent connection, seen in this light, is merely an extension of what goes on among individuals, organizations and companies all mutually bound together in trade.

Early on empires tried to change this basic equation by conquering foreign lands to exploit their natural and human resources. The pay was bad among the conquered. But capital in the form of money most often tended to go one way—which strengthened the exploited. The have-not nations were backward not only in wealth, but in human capital as well as infrastructure and technology. It took some centuries, but the have-not nations gradually threw off the yokes of the imperialists.

The gaps in wealth among nations was not only quite uneven but very slow in closing. That process is now well along yet not quite complete. Still, the gaps between the rich and poor nations narrowed. This process became evident after WWII where China showed the world how it was done, especially after Zhou Enlai moved China toward a market economy, away from its failing experiment with Marxism. Brazil has already come along and India is following suit. With the Third-World catching up, the value of human capital is moving toward equalization world-wide. This trend was accelerated as have-not countries benefited from industrial jobs exported from the Have-Nations who then suffered job losses. Some of those losses became effectively permanent as the developing countries established their own markets for the higher-tech goods they were taught to make for themselves during the process. Economically, all this was a huge democratizing step forward among nations and all humankind whether or not any national governing politics followed suit.

Viewed in this light, as the global economy embraces Free Trade, it can only do so at the expense of growth rates among rich nations. The slow growth we now see, may in fact be the future norm. This century will likely see this process move forward until virtually no society is left behind. The winner(s), in terms of global power, of this phase of history will be the nation(s) that best accommodate to the new economic trends most effectively.

Since Europe and the Western Hemisphere hold most of the high cards, how do you think all this will play out in the years to come?


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