We see headlines daily, to the effect of— Russia! China! The European Union! The USA! (or, “America!”) These and a few other nations are major players in the world’s economy, and holders of power concomitant with their economic strength, as measured by Gross Domestic Product. (I admit there are other important strengths attributable to any given nation, but these are not as easily measurable.)

Here are ‘facts’ for the most populous nations of the world, the fourteen that each contain over one hundred million people. But, right away, I and the reader have a problem in that one of these ‘nations’ is the European Union. You will have your own opinion as to whether the EU belongs in this list.

These fourteen entities (40, if you count each of the 27 members of the European Union) comprise around two-thirds of the world’s population, so I assert that what happens in and by these nations is vitally important to the remaining 159 countries which are listed in the World Factbook of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA, the source of my information.

What a trove! The reader can select the items of his or her interest to ponder; I note these:

  • China and India together contain slightly more than one-third of the earth’s human population. They have an extensive common border with a few small countries wedged between them in the Himalaya Mountain Range. These two countries have tense relations over boundaries, and over the fact that India gives refuge to the Dalai Lama, the leader-in-exile of Tibetan Buddhists of the former administrative region of Tibet, of the Republic of China (before it became the ‘People’s Republic of China’).
  • The EU and the USA hold around 10% of the world’s population. They have  the highest ratio of Gross Domestic Product per person in the world, by far.
  • Not many in the West are aware that Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world; we don’t get much news about Indonesia in Europe and North America.
  • The median age in the EU, Japan, and Russia are all 40 years or more. The USA and China are not far behind at 38.5.and 38.4.  These are aged nations, compared to a median age of 31 years for the world, and the even more youthful nations of Nigeria, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, and Mexico.
  • Japan and Russia have a small, negative population growth rate. That is, their populations are slowly shrinking, currently. Japan has no net migration, but Russia has a comparatively large net migration of +1.7 persons per thousand population. I believe the largest part of this in-migration is due to ethnic Russians migrating from nations which were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
  • Nine of the fourteen countries have a negative net migration; that is, more people leave the country than arrive from other countries. The only countries to which more people want to arrive to than leave are: the EU, the USA–and Russia, as noted in the previous bullet.

What about Gross Domestic Product? See here:

“The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today.” (Source)

The reader will readily note that I have assigned the “Economic Tier Number” of #1.5 to Russia. I believe it is a telling fact that the GDP of Russia is well below the USA, Japan, and the EU, even though Russia gives the general impression, by its international behavior, that it is in the top tier.

Another telling fact is that China, despite its almost constant presence in the headlines, world-wide corporate offices, and halls of governments, is, economically, a second-tier country. It should be remembered that approximately two-thirds of China’s population are the peasantry, not the city-dwellers we see in the news reports. The GDP per person in China is heavily weighted toward the city-dweller, leaving the peasant at the level of “third-world” countries.

I will leave my discussion here, hoping you will find other points of interest which you might share with the reader in the comments section.





Posted in Demography, Economics, Gross Domestic Product | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Conrad H. Pavellas, 1913 – 2000

(Written 20 April 2012)

I am suffering from weltschmerz, a condition my father often had when we lived five awful years on the wrong side of the Gowanus Parkway at Third Avenue and 48th Street in Brooklyn—before we returned home to San Francisco in 1951.

Much of this feeling stems from my perception that all is not quite right with the country I love: the United States of America. There are many articles in the press and opinion journals about the current or inevitable decline of the USA, and a lesser number of writings refuting this.

Certainly the press sells papers by the implicit motto “if it bleeds, it leads”, and this is only a reflection of ourselves. There seems to be a wretched excess of such “news” in recent months. Perhaps my years have accumulated too much of what the press presents and I have grown sour.

As an antidote I have spent part of this day celebrating the USA through listening to words and, mostly, music.

I have celebrated with Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, James Earl Jones, and Abraham Lincoln, among others. These are some of the many people who speak to me of the America I love.

I listened to James Earl Jones recite A Lincoln Portrait, accompanied by the music of Aaron Copland. I listened also, with tears streaming, Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.

I read again Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, part of which is spoken in A Lincoln Portrait.

I reminisced on my many listenings to Bernstein’s West Side Story, about which I have written. Yesterday I viewed a film on the life and work of Bernstein which celebrated his loving investment in the musical education of Americans, especially the young.

I mentally reviewed the work of George Gershwin whose joyous music buoyed me in my youth, and even still: Porgy and Bess; his Piano Concerto; Rhapsody in Blue which I played inexpertly on the piano at age 15; and others.

I reminisced about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his famous speech, but even more so about his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which I have also mentioned in my writing.

Other people and occasions travel through my mind as I continue to struggle to regain my balance under this cloud of weltschmerz.

These memories, and the music and words I listened to, did help, but I still am searching for what there is now in the USA that is similar in nature to what I have written about here. When the youth of today are my age, what will they remember to make them grateful to have spent their formative years in the USA? What memories of public figures and what music will bring tears to their eyes?

Perhaps some young people will respond to this, teaching me to see what they may see as a positive answer to this question.

Posted in America, Music & Musicians | Tagged , , | 8 Comments