Herb Meyer served as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council during the Reagan administration. He came to Florida recently to speak to the Vistage CEO Summit and presented, “What in the World is Going On? – A Global Intelligence Briefing for CEOs” I attended along with several members of the Vistage CEO peer groups I facilitate here in south Florida.
Today, more than ever before, CEOs need to understand what is going on in the world. Key trends in politics, economics, populations and cultures have an impact on every business. To manage effectively, chief executives must know how these trends will affect their companies. In his presentation, Herb Meyer talked about the national security, economic and cultural issues that are so prevalent in our media today.
Herb Meyer is an engaging speaker with many interesting stories. Herb Meyer’s experience is a wonderful frame of reference for important information on fundamental change already well underway. Meyer does a great job of bringing reality to four major ideas. At the outset, Meyer renounced political rhetoric with the claim that here in the USA we seem to be in the habit of loud argument before we bother to understand. Herb Meyer stuck with his promise to focus on facts and ideas. That said it was never difficult to read Meyer’s positions between the lines. Meyer often says “honorable people will disagree and should do so respectfully.” I like that. Also, Meyer is a pleasant fellow and shares a love of classical music with me.
Herb Meyer has a couple of eBooks available, and a recently released DVD. You can find additional published works, links and information about Herb Meyer as well as his DVD at http://stormkingpress.com
He had four major ideas to bring us. Here they are:
Conflict in the world results when operating systems are incompatible. We currently have 1.5 billion people in the Middle East attempting to move from the 8th century into the 21st century. The majority of them are currently living in an Islamic system. In Herb Meyer’s opinion, the Islamic system of law and government is incompatible with the modern western world. It is at odds with our social practices and with technology. This transition is bound to be difficult and cause great strife. The process of integration into other cultures will be gradual as they like to live in distinctively separate areas creating “multicultural societies”. Herb Meyer sees this as a continuing problem in western societies that will be with us for a long time to come.
Playing Defense is Dangerous
While this idea has obvious military connotations, (I think Herb Meyer is a hawk at heart) it also has application in sport, business and probably, love in addition to warfare. Meyer pointed out that those playing defense whether defending a goal, a market or a population from an offensive foe must literally win 100 percent of the time. On the offensive all you need to do is get through the defense once to score. At first glance this seems sound. On the other hand, if we are always playing offense there may be no attention paid to winning at the game of integration. I think I would choose to put reasonable safeguards in place and maintain them but spend my energy on the natural movement and integration of populations, markets and ideas. Seems like the best way to stay relevant in the face of change. Just my opinion.
The World Population is Aging
Herb Meyer says the necessary birthrate for populations to maintain themselves is 2.1 children on average. At this rate the parents are replaced. The extra .1 child compensates for those children who do not reach adulthood for some unfortunate reason. Meyer also defines the birthrate from which societies cannot mathematically return to growth as 1.3 children on average. Hence any country with a birthrate lower than 2.1 must mathematically lose population and when the 1.3 birthrate is reached population growth cannot recover and mathematically the country is set for extinction. As Herb Meyer says, “just do the math”!
Here are the current birthrate figures Meyer gave us plus the most recent data from the World Bank and other sources:
|Country||Births Per 1000 2008Nationmaster.com||Births Per 1000 2009CIA World Fact Book||Current Birth rate Per Herb Meyer||2008 Birth rate Per World Bank|
For the most part my research confirmed Herb Meyer’s numbers concerning birth rates. This is a complex number and has many factors to take into consideration. First sheer size is important. An 11.8 rate per thousand population with China’s population of 1.3 billion amounts to 15.3 million babies per year while with our population of 300 million give or take a few million at a rate of 14 per thousand yields 4.2 million babies per year. Again, size matters! Then of course wars kill off young men and women in their prime for producing children. Dietary habits, tobacco and other substance use and the availability and cost of medical care are all factors in life expectancy and can change the survival rates. Epidemics typically kill the old and the very young. All of these factors and more could throw the current statistics into a cocked hat.
I could find no evidence to confirm the 1.3 “suicide rate” at which it is impossible to increase population. In fact, there are many countries that reached 1.3 in 2005 and have risen since then according to the CIA statistics. They include Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Hungary, Germany and Greece.
A possible change in the number of children per woman in China could turn their statistics around rapidly. Some of the higher birth rate nations have rates as high as 8. Apply that to Chinese women just entering childbearing age now and calculate the result. Can’t happen? China is a totalitarian state so don’t bet on it!
All that said a trend is a trend for many reasons most of them deeply engrained in populations. One continent you can bet on is Africa. All the highest birthrates (those from 4 per woman to 8 per woman) are on that continent. It is a good bet that the developed world will seek to emigrate and educate Africans as their own populations age. Count on competition between all the developed nations to attract the best educated and highest skilled emigrants from Africa and other nations.
Emerging Global Middle Class
The fourth big idea Herb Meyer brought to us is the emerging global middle class. Herb Meyer states there will be more middle class people on this planet than ever within the natural lifetimes of adults today. This is due to advancing technology that has flattened the world and facilitated communication at the speed of light. That allows entire populations to take new roles in the world. Examples are the rise of India in service businesses and China in the production of consumer goods. The rising middle class wants goods and services similar to everything we have in the US. Herb Meyer believes US businesses are poised to take great advantage of this phenomenon. Meyer sees the free market as a key factor. I believe there are no guarantees that we will become the supplier to the world. Certainly we can be a strong player. However, the newly emerging middle classes around the world will want to participate rather than to let us own the store. In many cases they are likely to want to buy technology and start up help from us and actually produce goods and supply services themselves. I also expect newly spawned entrepreneurs in emerging societies will want to own equity even when American based global corporations come into their nations. Also there is a strong probability that we will need capital investment from the world financial markets.
I believe the winners in providing supply chain to an emerging global middle class will hinge on energy and food production. Our opportunity to benefit depends greatly on how we play as power brokers in the world. There are many questions left unanswered. Here are a few important ones:
How will we mitigate energy use and develop alternative sources?
How will we harness our food production facilities to help feed the world?
How will we use our massive military might in a world fraught with injustice and war?
Will we be able to solve our own difficult financial problems?