Global prosperity and changes it brings


BY CHONG KIN ONN

I RECENTLY bought a juicer for RM59.90 and am using it to make fresh juices every day. The juicer is a Chinese brand and it was sold in a hypermarket that originated from France.  

I normally wouldn’t consider purchasing a juicer as the familiar brands cost twice as much. However 2 foreign firms came together to offer us the opportunity to own inexpensive juicers - Viva le globalisation!  

The point is that wealth – brought on by globalisation and technology – afforded me the juicer and changed my dieting habits. Globally, it changes much more than that.  

Rising prosperity in the world is transforming cultures, values, family life, politics, the environment, the work life – in fact every aspect of human life. The extent of the changes is mapped by money manager Peter Marber in his book, Money Changes Everything: How Global Prosperity is Reshaping Our Needs, Values & Lifestyles (Financial Times Prentice Hall).  

Make no mistake about it, changes to human behaviour are happening rapidly. Marber groups people into three classifications based on their income: the Biologicals, the Materials and the Experientials.  

People in the Biological stratum generally earn an annual income of less than US$2,000, have a shorter life expectancy, a higher infant mortality rate and consequently a larger family size.  

They tend to have a lower literacy rate and tend to be dominated by religious beliefs. They are more concerned with feeding the family and thus have less leisure time.  

Meanwhile, people whose incomes have grown to a point where they can afford TV sets and movies are known as the Materials. As the name suggests, the Materials tend to be materialistic and dominated by the desires for status and recognition.  

Beyond materialism lies the Experientials. Because their basic and material needs have been satisfied, the Experientials tend to look for more meaning in their lives.  

They have reached the self-actualisation stage, a stage which sits on top of the Maslow pyramid. Having established the three categories, Marber goes on to show how various facets of human life – religion, education, family and leisure - are heavily influenced by the income earned.  

Take, for example, the relationship between wealth and family size. Wealthier families tend to have fewer children – the average family size in Switzerland with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of US$40,000 is 2.5. In Burundi, with a GDP per capita of US$140, it is 5.8.  

Marber writes: “There is a direct link between fertility rates and economic growth? In 1790, the average size of a US household was 5.8 people. In 1890, it was 4.9, 3.3 in 1960, and 2.6 by 1993.” And so it goes on. Marber is quite convincing with his figures.  

He grinds them, manipulates and uses numbers as legs to support his hypothesis.  

It works but here's the book’s weakness. Marber smothers the reader with statistics, too much of them. I guess this is a consequence of writing from a high level view. I would imagine that he had all these economic reports and publications to extract the numbers and dump into the book.  

At times, the book reads less than a personal treatise and more like a report, which is perhaps how Marber intended it to be.  

If you’re looking for human anecdotes about wealth and globalisation, read Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree which, when complemented with Marber’s book, will give you high and street level views of the incredible changes taking place today. 

Related Stories:Financial management in a nutshell Book briefs 

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