A persistent conflict exists over the sharing of natural resources in all societies. The result is that a small minority of people always succeeds in amassing most of the material wealth. This unequal distribution is a natural dynamics of human society. When you are rich, many things will work in your favor. You tend to become richer because other people are willing to work for you by offering their talents and loyalty. Furthermore, you gain more leverage and connections in your business dealings due to the resources at your disposal, thus putting you in an advantageous position. With wealth come influence, power and control over other people.
Thus the minority rules over the majority because of their wealth. Old-time examples are: kings and queens, royals and nobles, church leaders, the elites and wealthy families with connections to the top. In modern times, a new class of powerful minority arises that includes: owners and top managers of big corporations, high officials in government and political parties, self-made millionaires, and people with connections such as wealthy political donors and lobbyists.
The majority is generally known as the public or the people. They aspire to climbing the social ladder by offering their talents and skills to the rich minority. They are willing to be employed, co-opted or exploited. Some are even willing to sell their souls to climb higher.
The above represents the realities of life where the strong lord over the weak. If left to its own designs, the rich will get richer and the poor poorer, with the following consequences: rebellion, civil war, revolution, or implosion of the society. All of the above have occurred in countries around the world one time or another.
Fortunately, the human condition does not look that bleak. One dynamic factor is changing human life like no other – technology. The advance of technology is intrinsic to human nature that cannot be stopped although it can be suppressed. The pace of technological change is exponential, meaning the technology achieved in the world over the last 100 years is greater than all of the previous years combined.
Technological change has created a new powerful class — professionals, entrepreneurs, and workers with special skills and education. The fast growth of technology causes their numbers and incomes to multiply to the extent that they now become the new majority known as the middle class in all developed countries.
The middle class has the potential to be the most powerful group if they are well informed and well organized. The rich minority needs the middle class because their companies’ sales depend on the spending of this group. Elected officials need the middle class because their votes are crucial to enable them to stay in office. Even in China where people do not vote, government leaders are paying more attention to the wellbeing of the middle class because their whole economy depends on it.
The rise of the middle class is changing the traditional conflict between the minority rich and the majority poor. In many developing countries where the middle class is still small or non-existent, the class warfare tends to be explosive because the poor masses live in despair while the rich minority lives in a fortress mentality. The middle class brings stability to society because they have something to lose should the system deteriorate, and also something to gain if conditions improve. The middle class also provides mobility for the poor to climb up through their own efforts without having to kowtow to the rich.
A stable society depends on the healthy development of the middle class. A suitable condition must be cultivated to enable the middle class to grow. What are the major ingredients? They must include: education, business infrastructure, laws that enhance competition, keeping inflation under control, and a favorable atmosphere for the development of technology and entrepreneurship.