November 28, 2012
We don’t have control over the circumstances of our births. And let’s face it, some people hit the lottery right out of the gate, born into loving families, big inheritances, or well-developed countries full of opportunity.
When I was a kid, the United States was one of those places. Children were lucky to have been born in America back then. Our realities were defined by freedom, prosperity, and stability… and we grew up being told that we could do ANYTHING.
So much has changed since then.
Today, a child born in the US or Western Europe will have his/her reality defined by a distinct LACK of opportunity, nanny police states, and a lifetime of steep taxes to pay debt obligations inherited from previous generations.
Conversely, a child born in the People’s Republic of China today is going to grow up in an era of unprecedented wealth, power, and opportunity. Decades before, the best his grandparents could have hoped for was toiling in the fields and not getting killed by Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
The Economist recently published a poignant article illustrating this point; their Intelligence Unit ranked countries based on a variety of factors — long-term economic prospects, safety, quality of family life, etc., to conclude where children born in 2013 will have the best chances of living a prosperous life.
Then they compared their 2013 rankings against a similar survey conducted in 1988. The results are quite intriguing.
Twenty five years ago, the United States topped the charts as the best place in the world to be born. France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK were all in the top 10.
Today, the US and Germany are tied for… 16th, well behind Singapore (#6) which was in the bottom quartile 25 years ago, and Taiwan (#14), which wasn’t even on the list back then!
Japan, France, and the UK come in at 25, 26, and 27 respectively in 2013, behind, for example, Chile (#23) which was also not ranked in 1988.
Also noteworthy is that the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and East Germany were all on the list in 1988. None of these countries exist today.
It’s all a prescient reminder of how things change; this has been a constant throughout human history. There’s alway been some tribe, kingdom, empire, country, etc. that’s the biggest, wealthiest, most powerful in the world.
And it’s constantly changing. Countries rise, fall, and in some cases, cease to exist altogether.
In the 18th century, France was THE place to be… the absolute pinnacle of civilization. But then decades of debt, debasement, and debaucherous deficits pushed France into a 26-year period of revolutionary turmoil, complete with hyperinflation, genocide, and military conquest.
By the 19th century, England ascended to become the power and wealth center of the world, ultimately displaced by the United States in the 20th century.
Today, it’s changing again. Like France and England before, the US is in terminal decline and being displaced by countries that were impoverished backwaters just decades ago. This shift will be one of the defining trends of the 21st century.
This is difficult for many people to accept. When you grow up believing that your country is ‘the best,’ reinforced by a steady digest of bombastic propaganda, it’s easier to ignore reality than acknowledge facts.
Unfortunately, people who do this will eventually be crushed by the weight of the collapsing state.
Governments come and go. Big deal. As human beings, our number one priority always has been and will be taking care of ourselves, our families, and our loved ones.
Sometimes this means having the courage to accept the truth and to look towards the future so that our children have the best possible chances in life… just as we did.