An American Success Story and the Unexpected Pain

There has been a lot of doom and gloom news lately – the U.S. economy is bad, unemployment is way up as are rocketing gas prices.  Worldwide there is a food shortage while food prices are soaring.   We all are feeling the pain at the pump and at the grocery store.

 There is a population explosion which is driving the world’s fuel and food shortage and inflation.  But it is not just an increase in numbers; it is the kinds of people who are growing rapidly throughout the world which are causing the strain on food and fuel supply and demand:  a rising middle class throughout the world.  On the radio this morning commentator Robert Reich offered this explanation:

“You see, hundreds of millions of people in China and India and the former Soviet republics are ascending into the middle class at a rate never before seen in history. And the two items this huge, rapidly-growing middle class want most are cars and meat.

That’s the problem. Cars use enormous amounts of fuel. And meat uses up enormous amounts of agricultural land, because animals that provide it require lots of feed grains. And supplies of both are limited.

This means global prices for fuel and food will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. And these increases are likely to generate the biggest threats to global peace.”

America whose leaders so aggressively wanted to bring an end to communism and propagate free enterprise throughout the world, have in fact succeeded.   But this success of spreading “American” capitalism throughout the world came with a unanticpated cost.   Population growth among the world’s poorest does not put the strain on the global fuel and food supply that growth in the middle class does.  For the middle class has money and they want more goods and consume far more food and fuel than the poor.  So the American success in spreading free enterprise through the world has exceeded the world’s capacity for sustaining middle class consumptive life styles.   It is going to put even further stress on the demands for the world’s limited resources and is going to put much more stress on the world’s poor who cannot afford the basic necessities of life. 

The gloom and doom of the news was met this morning in my daily reading of the Bible with this passage:

Though the fig tree do not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation. 

(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The Prophet Habakkuk says even if food crops fail, and animal production disappears, he will still rejoice in the Lord.   In the doom and gloom of the news it is hard to feel so piously trusting in God as to be joyful.  As America deals with its worldwide success in exporting free enterprise, will we feel so joyful in God as prices soar through the roof?   We have convinced the world to embrace capitalism, and it has brought an unbelievable boom to the world’s population and economy.   Now will we be able to practice what every household family with kids has to teach and learn –  how to share?

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