The fat and flat world


I’ve been reading “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. You have to read this book! If, in the next presidential election, some candidate anounces Friedman will be his adviser, or simply that he has read Friedman’s book and agrees in substance with all he says, that would cinch my vote.

I have a related thesis- “The World is Fat”. I mean this on both the micro and macro levels. On a micro level, developed countries are having more troubles with an overweight population and the health problems that entails. But, on a macro level, the growing population of the world means that we are throwing the natural balance of nature off. This has implications beyond just increased pollution and diminishing natural resources.

Humankind needs to go on a diet, and by this I mean it needs to learn to live with a fixed population. In the past, growth has been possible because of the abundance of both space and natural resources. Furthermore, growth meant more person-power, which led to an accelerated rate of technological progress. But we are at a point now where we are reaching the limits of what the earth will support. We need to slow down our growth now. Otherwise, when we do reach that limit, there will be some very painful trimming of the “excess” population.

This will be no easy task. Every generation is larger than the last, making the work force ever-growing. Slowing down to zero population growth will mean an effective shrinking of the relative size of the labor force.


Cruising into the middle ages


Cruise ships are all the rage these days. But, ever thought about why? I’ve taken a few cruises, and the nicest thing about them is you are in a little bubble, where all of your needs and wants are taken care of. All you need is money, and folks are at your beck and call. Your job is to have fun.

But wait, doesn’t this sound familiar? This was the lifestyle in the 19th century (and earlier). You were either a master or a servant. Society was clearly divided into classes, determined at birth, with little intermingling.

On the cruise ships, nearly all of the employees are from so-called “second or third world” or “developing” countries. They work very hard, get paid very little, and have very little time off.

This is a microcosm of what’s happened/happening on a global scale. The new class lines are shifting, being drawn more according to where you were born, instead of who you were born to. Why are there so few Americans or Western Europeans as cruise line employees?

Historically, all successful cultures have had class divisions, and those that try to eliminate them rarely do so with any amount of success. If the “first world” countries are the moneyed gentry of the 21st century, is it any wonder that there is so much fodder for hatred of them that is aligned with national and regional borders?