Bad western habits spread

THERE is an economic theory called the Frontier Theory. It contends that economic development moves in a westerly direction.

The strongest economy in the world in the 20th century was the US economy. In the 19th century, the US itself performed as a microcosm of what was to follow and it led to the development of the Frontier Theory.

Industrial might was centred on the eastern seaboard about the time of the Civil War of the 1850s and 1860s. As time went on, the population moved westward following the path of the private railway companies as they approached the Rockies. People were seeking a better life for their families. When the railway companies broke through the Rockies it opened up access to the Pacific and the goldfields in California. The west had been won; and "new" prosperity had made a quantum shift westwards.

The US emerged from the Second World War as an unassailable giant among economic midgets. Learning from the mistakes made after the Great War, the US encouraged recovery among its beaten foes.

Out of its altruism Japan grew quickly into a powerhouse in electronics, automotives and shipbuilding. Then followed Taiwan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and India as the century turned. Currently we're witnessing industrial growth in the Middle East, Bangladesh and the African states.

A part of the theory is that as economic development moves west, a wealthy middle class develops and imports musical tastes, social attitudes, fashions and food.

On Tuesday last I watched the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program. Sobering. It's no longer the US (or Australia for that matter) but Mexico that has the greatest number of obese people per head of population in the world.

No milk at "little lunch" for their school kids (as it was in my day) - 700ml bottles of Coca Cola! Others facing an obesity crisis? China (one kid had reached 140kg), Brazil (kids were getting lap band surgery) and India where one million people are diabetic!

In developing countries in Asia, forget sushi. Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Domino's, Nestle and Cadbury are all going absolute gangbusters!

The frontier?

Our habits sure went west.

Bob Lamont is Senior Partner in Corporate Accountants and Rid Tax situated at the Night Owl centre. He welcomes your questions directed to

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