Gordon Brown, MP, compares the expected changes to the impact of the Industrial Revolution.
By Paula Christine Schuler
Data shows a massive economic shift has begun, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom said Feb. 5 in the Trinity University Distinguished Lecture Series.
Historians will probably say we are in an economic change more fundamental than what happened in the Industrial Revolution, Gordon Brown, Member of Parliament, said.
In 2010, for the first time in 200 years, the majority of the world’s production and trade was outside Europe and the U.S., he said. The majority of the world’s consumption still exists in Europe and the United States, but this is changing, too, Brown said.
Consumption of resources and products by the world’s population is shifting to an exploding middle class in Asia, which will dominate in the next 10 to 15 years.
One more massive change will take longer. “In 20-30 years, another significant change will occur,” Brown said. “Most of the world’s wealth will no longer rest in the United States and Europe.”
For 200 years, 10 percent of the people of the world produced and consumed the majority of the world’s resources, products and services.
These people were in the West, more specifically, Europe and North America. Brown said “it was inevitable” that the inequality of production and consumption could not last.
These massive economic shifts in motion are only part of an explanation for a question he asked in the first 10 minutes of his lecture. “Why is it that four years since the world recession, we are still feeling so insecure about the future?”
Brown said in the last four years, 25 of 27 European governments have been thrown out of power, and the temptation is to blame politicians. “People rightly say why did political leaders not do better?”
He said Europe is still struggling with national financial collapses for several reasons and should follow the example of the United States in redesigning the banking and accountability systems.
In the United Kingdom, the people and politicians are grappling with globalization and shifts in economic influence. He said one side wants to keep things the way they have been, and others see the numbers, the facts and desire restructuring to respond to the dynamics of economics and politics in Europe and the world.
Brown said he does not see the shift of wealth to the East as negative; it brings innumerable opportunities.
Nations who cultivate creative talent and the ability to produce, innovate and educate will be the winners, leaving, China scared. Brown said China is the master of copying designs, but they struggle with innovation and creativity.
Brown said he is hopeful about the opportunities that already exist in business and social change, such as the Internet, which helps students, populations and nations share ideas and stand up for equality. He told stories of people demonstrating in the streets around the world in response to the abuses of women in various Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
Brown said the world population will have more wealth than ever before, more production, more consumption and greater standards of living. He said he has hope for the millions who will benefit.
Moral underpinnings for financial and social policies of governments need to be key values, he said.
He has confidence nations will continue financial and social policies to promote equality of opportunity and treatment under law.
After his remarks, Brown took audience questions. A middle-aged woman asked about impact around the world because of corruption, hacking, theft, fraud and other malicious behaviors. He said morality and truth regarding human rights and desire of governments and leaders to promote the wellbeing of people will defeat corruption.
Fraud and corruption exist, but influences are overwhelmed by people who act with moral underpinnings.
Brown is the son of a preacher, who grew up in poverty and surrounded by pollution.
He entered a university at 15, earned a Ph.D. in history and taught before moving into politics. He served in numerous offices involving U.K. finance.
A student asked about his greatest achievement and failure. Brown said his greatest achievement was the London G20 summit in 2009. Leaders of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and national economic powers decided how to respond to the world economic meltdown. He is largely credited for preventing a worldwide depression through actions taken following the London G20.
His greatest failure occurred a few years later, he said because he failed to foster the interdependent leadership, energy and resolution that developed in 2009.