From now onwards, the West is generally moving away from consumer product-led economic growth (if indeed it exists at all at present outside questionable government statistics). Most of us now have a standard house and a standard stock of goods and equipment within it. Unless some amazing and uniquely new consumer product comes along then most of us are now pretty fully occupied time-wise and space-wise with what we have already.
While the comfortable 20-class will no doubt continue to keep fully up-to-date with the very latest versions and fashions of the existing stock of goods in order to maintain their status well ahead of the 80-class, the latter have only been able to catch up in the last 20 to 30 years or so because of steadily cheaper goods from Asia and by having ready access to credit which banks have been showering upon them — up until 2008 anyway. Also, a majority of the 80-class are taxation-neutral, or even taxation-negative, by virtue of receiving transfer payments from the 20-class via governments.
From now onwards, economic growth (if it can be called that) will take place along two main tracks. The first track is that of increasingly sophisticated producer goods (involving much more automation and computerization among other things) and a more efficient energy infrastructure. Here we may note that China is already moving bodily into this sector even before its own consumer revolution is fully complete. For example, unfortunately for America, China is now building its own state-of-the-art aircraft and aero-engines; unfortunately for Germany, China is now building the latest computerized machine tools; unfortunately for both America and Europe, China is now building an extensive high-speed railway system that will make its own domestic economy so much more efficient than ours.
The other track is that of consumer services, particularly in education and health. Because high attainment in both of these will increasingly depend on a deep knowledge of the genetic and epigenetic predispositions of the individual, then this is where the West still has a clear lead over China. The vast bulk of front-line research in these areas still resides in America, Germany and the UK. Until China can shake off its authoritarian state school methods which (by its own government’s admission) severely cramp creativity among its young people, then the West will be able to retain its advantage for at least, let us say, one or two generations to come.
But how will education and health services develop in the West? It’s all very well saying that we are trail-blazing the necessary fundamental research, but both areas are chock-a-block with restrictive practices. Also, because both services will increasingly depend on the specific genetics and epigenetics of the individual customer such customized services are going to be increasingly expensive. Will governments be able to tax their electorates sufficiently to pay for these services more widely? Will sufficient numbers of highly skilled teachers and doctors be taught and allowed into these professions?
Those are questions which I wouldn’t like to give definite answers to. As regards serving the 80-classes in both China and the West, each has their own specific educational deficiencies to overcome. But maybe we have a clue already. The better-off 20-class of Chinese parents are increasingly sending their children (and at younger ages) to the minority of private 20-class schools and universities in the West; and the more enterprising 20-class schools and universities of the West are increasingly setting up shop in China. Meanwhile, for economic reasons, the 80-class families of both the West and China will probably continue their sub-replacement sizes and thus disappear to zero in the next three of four generations. Quod erat demonstrandum?