With so many things happening in our political system, it’s easy to lose focus of the world as whole. And for this reason, many Americans are rather pessimistic about the future of the world. Decade after decade, our government grows bigger and opportunity slowly wilts.
But sometimes we have to step back from our own country and analyze the world’s trend. In general, the world is getting more free – not less. Think about the globe only 50 years ago: China wasn’t communist in name only but communist in reality. Of course, the USSR still worshipped Lenin, and Eastern Europe was under the grip of the same mental aberration.
Furthermore, other parts of the world were on economic lockdown too. Few in their right mind would have located their customer service department or any business unit in India at the time. The Middle East, too, has seen vast improvements since then. Modern Turkey and Dubai would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. On top of this list, there are still more examples, such as Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. Don’t forget South American countries like Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil. Sure, most of these locations aren’t free-market paradises, but compared to the past, things are good and in many cases getting better.
If China alone grew freer, the world on net would have improved. A billion souls are being allowed to experience a form of free-market capitalism after almost a century under communism. That’s an amazing accomplishment. The United States, Canada, and Western Europe have become less free, but our populations represent a much smaller proportion of the world.
As strange as it sounds in the middle of this recession, the world on net is doing well compared to the past. Unfortunately for us, we’re not a net gainer in this new global picture. The new global economy offers plenty of opportunity for the adventurous. But I don’t think the majority of us will be packing for Singapore anytime soon. We’ll likely survive with what’s left of the free market at home.
This shift is especially apparent among foreign students. As I’m finishing my masters of finance at Johns Hopkins University, I’ve met so many international students that have no intention of remaining in the U.S. They’re here to get a good education, and then they’re leaving. This would have been an unimaginable plan only two decades ago. Anyone who could stay in America would.
And it’s not necessarily that America has gotten so bad. It’s that the gap between us and other places in the world has gotten smaller. When an educated foreigner had to pick between earning $50,000 in the U.S. and $5,000 domestically, the choice was obvious. But now that they can make $20,000 domestically; $50,000 in the States is less appealing. After all, there are personal costs to immigration, such as learning a new language and getting along with a different culture. It simply isn’t worth the extra cash for many individuals. Similarly, most of us wouldn’t jump on a ship for China to boost our salaries by $30K. We’ve all got roots that can be troublesome to uproot.
For a long time, talented individuals from Russia, Eastern Europe, China, and India either had to move to the West or were destined for poverty, despite their skills. Now, with an education and some effort, one can earn a decent living in numerous countries around the world. For most people around the globe, the glass looks half full. There’s a lot to be hopeful about – even in this recession. Unfortunately, our glass doesn’t only look half empty; it’s actually getting emptier.