It is amazing that still “the majority” of people in the United States do not realize the enormous changes that are underway, or have been underway since the 1990’s. Why? The officials who run our families, businesses and government are basically those born between the 1950’s-1980’s. They all share the same mentality of an American superpower, fruits of the bounty that existed during that period (that is ceasing to exist).
The debate about a “declining middle class” is not an isolated incident. This is not only occuring in Argentina and the United States, but globally in all “developed” societies. (Yes I am insinuating that Argentina was once “developed”). However, certain things cannot be artificially maintained (in this case a “middle” class as pertaining to the 20th century for this socioeconomic group). To be a member of the “middle class” in the 21st century, it will require that you fulfill more prerequisites. To remain or become rich, you will also need to maintain (or fulfill) MORE prerequisites.
[Footnote: I will discuss “emerging middle classes” in Brazil (and India, China) in a future blogpost].
One of the primary challenges in the 21st century is the following: education. “When am I done learning?” “When have I mastered this skill?”
The answer to these two questions is simply: Never.
The 21st century will provide us with more amenities, but it will also “rob” us of our “leisure” time. This does not mean more local and shorter vacations, but it does mean what do we do in our spare time. After work, do we remain updated on all the major league sports while neglected our own health? Do we choose to drink five beers instead of a beet shake? Do we choose to utilize the product of our education (ourselves), spending time submerged in a magazine about celebrities or the daily news instead of enhancing a new skill set?
Unforunately, the reason why this logic has never been successful, is because it has not be clearly articulated. The learning process never stops, and this is a good thing. This helps us become better people and more productive citizens in a capitalistic society that is always evolving (more rapidly).
Constantly learning requires adapting new habits, placing yourself in the right environment, being ambitious, taking chances, accepting failures, learning from mistakes, etc. etc.
As a summary:
The bar has been raised for being a member in the middle class, or a higher class. Forunately or unforunately, a minimum bar has also been established for subsistence living- welfare and its various forms. The first step to reaching the new “bar” is to identity that it has risen, that we all have imperfect information regarding where it “actually” is, and lastly, there is no exact location so the important point is that we are always striving to generally improve ourselves.
Side note: This was one of the more interesting notions of the Economics program in Argentina, mathematically trying to determine where an equilibrium exists? In is interesting to note, that if economic growth is the product of technological advancement, maybe most times an equilibrium NEVER exists. If an equilibrium exists, there is no economic growth (or perversely: a contraction of economic activity).
Richard R. Nelson
The sources of Economic Growth
As Fontes do Crescimento Econômico (tradução da Editora UNICAMP)
This is only one book of a very good collection. The unforunate fact is that this collection is already becoming dated, so one would probably want to cross-reference this book with more contemporary materials.