Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Vanishing Middle Class


This is off the top of my head, but if I share it, I can latter refine it.

Vanishing middle class.

Maybe shrinking middle class is better.

Let's go with transforming middle class.

Some of the middle class are sinking, others will morph into the netcohort.

The point is, a whole bunch of people have lost their middle class status. A lot more people are worried about losing it. Most of the studies on this phenomena have been finger pointing; folks with a political agenda making up obfuscating reasons the other guys are at fault. The followers of political party lyrics are singing the songs they have been handed. Very few are thinking.

To start our thoughts we will take a look at the transformation from a historic view. The Middle class is usually associated with the industrial age. Small businessman, and workers at skilled jobs in larger businesses, reaped rewards commensurate with their contributions. As they raised themselves above the level of their brethren, the economic level of everyone they were associated with was also raised. Industrial society as a whole became better off, the emerging middle class was much better off. But there was a group that was hurting and vanishing, the guilds.

To those screaming about the horrors of the industrial age, I am happy if you wish to live in a wattle and daub hut surviving on gruel and experiencing frequent famines. I think most of us prefer the better life available now. Don't ask me to give up my life for your factual errors, and don't get some government busybody to demand it of me for you. That is still theft.

Gee, they left the Hitchhiker. ;>}

That is where we arrive at the transforming middle class. If there had been an internet at the start of the industrial revolution the conspiracy theorists would have had the guilds financing the mobs that destroyed looms. As an aside a joining of the Luddites and the guilds would be the equivalent of today's odd bedfellow relationship of greens and giant labor unions.

As the industrial age advanced, the middle class expanded. Unskilled labor, by politics, extortion, and the compound growth of wages, secured many highly paid positions with access to middle class incomes. The world for a time had huge populations controlled by inefficient governments practicing socialism. In most of those nations all but the politically influential became working poor. The middle class of more open societies prospered by lack of innovative competition.

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery." - Winston Churchill

The transformation of the protected middle class is now in effect. Workers in China and other formerly highly managed economies are now free to compete, and they want a piece of the pie.

Just as when the guilds faded into history, the middle class is shrinking. Small businessmen will remain, a constant of open societies from all three ages. Those that are replacing the old middle class have far more options than the middle class had before, just as the industrial age middle class had more options than the guildsman.

We need a working title for the newly emerging middle, for now we will call them the netcohort.

Perhaps we will talk about the emerging netcohort in the next post.

Most of us will live in the future, we may as well make some educated guesses about it.



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