Despite bad economic news in the US and much of Europe, some parts of the world continue to have good economic news and strong growth.
"The spirit of capitalism - risk-taking, saving, investing, hard work - all those virtues have now migrated and are happily ensconced in China, India, Indonesia, Korea and Japan - the countries which we never thought would ever get out of poverty," Lord Desai, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, told the BBC. "If Asia has vigorous energetic capitalism and we have tired old capitalism, we will end up paying a huge price and we will trade our prosperity for their prosperity." Capitalism has renewed itself by migrating eastwards, he observed.
As the American dream contracts, Americans should consider looking for work in countries with growing economies. As native English speakers with a strong work ethic, Americans could be prized workers. That's what my wife and I have discovered. In 2009, we moved to Turkey to teach English. Housing, health insurance, generous vacation and annual flights back to the US were included in our package. Now we've moved to the United Arab Emirates, where the benefits are far better than what most teachers receive in the US.
If businesses are free to move around the world for the most favorable conditions, the only way to level the playing field is for workers to be mobile, too.
Turkey, Brazil, China and Indonesia continue to have rapidly growing economies. Sure, these are what is generally thought of as "second world" developing countries, but if they keep up the fast pace of development, and if first world economies like the US and Europe continue to decline, in a few decades there will be far less of a difference.
Some economists say Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia and China are growing too fast, probably leading to either inflation or a bubble that will eventually burst. But others say these countries are controlling growth and will experience a "soft landing."
I must say I find it disconcerting that Turkey is perceived in the world press to have a great economy, but unemployment in the second quarter of 2011 was 9.9 percent, lower than the 12% unemployment of a year earlier, but still higher than in the U.S., where people are really upset by the high unemployment rate. It all depends on what you are used to, I guess. Not so long ago, Turks felt the world was passing them by economically. Turkey, like many countries, is accustomed to high unemployment. Youth unemployment in Turkey remains high, 17.9%.
Yet Turkey is growing in economic confidence because unemployment is headed in the right direction, down. And the Turkish health care and retirement systems provide universal coverage to nearly everyone without the risk of financial ruin that so many American citizens face. Indeed, health care is so inexpensive in Turkey, even without insurance, that some Americans are combining tourism with elective surgery, such as laser surgery on their eyes, which cost about 10 percent of what it costs in the USA.
Turks have quoted to me an old adage, "When America's economy catches a cold, Turkey catches pneumonia." Having weathered the global recession well, and with one of the world's highest rates of growth now, Turks are increasingly confident that old adage no longer applies.
Gulf Oil States such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to have awesome wealth and steady growth. American businessmen and even school teachers can garner six-figure incomes there, when generous benefits are included. To stave off political unrest, the Saudi monarchy recently announced it is spending $130 billion to pump up salaries, build housing and finance religious organizations, "effectively neutralizing most opposition," the New York Times reports.
Working conditions remain sub-standard in developing countries. The labor movement in Turkey, for example, is weak, even by American standards. There appears to be no 40-hour-work-week regulation, no overtime pay requirements, no national minimum wage, and no guarantee of even two weeks' severance when workers are laid off.
Yet Turks have it better than Chinese. A Turkish textile factory worker I know spent several weeks in China, advising a sister textile company on technology to upgrade to. He was appalled by the working conditions of some of the Chinese workers -- many worked such long hours that they could not even go home at night to their families for days if not weeks at a time. They slept on cots not far from the machines they worked on.
Fortunately, Americans who accept jobs in developing countries would likely be treated as elite workers, paid more money, with more benefits than the natives.
Among the world's economies, Scandinavian countries have the highest degree of prosperity, freedom, stability, social trust and security, due to a strong social safety net. "What Makes Scandinavia Such a Happy Place?" asks Charles Recknagel of Radio Free Europe.
The Legatum Institute annually publishes a Prosperity Index that ranks 110 countries according to what the countries' own citizens tell pollsters. Scandinavian countries have consistently topped the Prosperity Index since it began in 2007.
The most recent Prosperity Index, published in 2010, showed 74 percent of Norwegians believe other people can be trusted, the highest such rate in the world. Denmark came in second, with 64 percent finding others trustworthy; Finland third with almost 60 percent; and Sweden sixth, with 56 percent.
Drawing on the observations of economists and sociologists at a London conference, Recknagel writes:
Scandinavian countries -- which indisputably have large GDPs -- might hold the key to understanding what conditions in addition to wealth must be present for people to report a high sense of well-being.
Some of the conditions might seem obvious. For example: good health care, good education, and good safety and security. So, too, might economic opportunity and the freedom to start one's own business in an environment free from predatory officials and corruption.
But other conditions that lead people to report they feel their life is worthwhile might be less self-evident. And those are often the very same ones that authoritarian regimes claim are unimportant or which they themselves undermine.
Those things include enjoying the personal freedom to speak, read, vote, and worship as you want. And they include enjoying a sense of social trust -- that is, a sense that those around you trust in the society and are themselves trustworthy.
The whole article is worth reading.