Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Invigorating Debate

I must say I have been pretty exhilarated by the response and the debate that has been generated in the William Gibson Forum on the questions I had raised in my piece In Search of God. Some members have labeled my opinions as anti-science statements while one or two have acknowledged the validity of my perspective. However, the ‘anti-science’ allegation has set me thinking. It is indeed intriguing that man is always so devoted to whatever ideology he subscribes to, be it Science or God. It will not be too wrong to say that there are fanatics in both classes of humanity, insofar that a person belonging to one ideological cult is sure to react sharply at any mention of the other. However much a devout follower of science may harp about rationality and reason, he is equally fastidious in his stance of apostasy as is a religious extremist in his posture of theism. Fact is, neither has been able to prove the other completely wrong. Human science still hasn’t got to the bottom of human existence and custodians of religion continue to base their arguments on untenable theories. It seems that this journey has yet to traverse a fair distance before we can declare this universe as either theocratic or technocratic. Maybe, with the passage of time, Man will find a way to merge the two into co-existence.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sequel To The Meltdown

The pitfalls of living in a centralized global economic system cannot be overstated. America has been the pillar of world economy too much and for too long. Now that this pillar is about to crumble, it threatens to take the world along with it. Since the fall of Hitler and the creation of the UN, America has been the undisputed guardian of the world, both politically and economically. It has been continuously and stealthily tightening that grip over the years, not too much to the dismay or mortification of any particular nation except, maybe, the Soviet Union.
Americans have been known to possess a tremendous propensity to consume, a trait that has been to the advantage of every country having a trade relationship with the US. However, that relationship may have been carried a bit too far, from the looks of the situation today. America’s mindless policies are now threatening to gobble it up, and the rest of the world is precariously close to the edge of the whirlpool that has been created. Europe is paying the heaviest price for its economic subservience to the US. This means that a major part of the developed world is on the verge of imploding under the pressure of the US financial crisis.

Asian countries had long prided themselves to be insulated from economic disturbances in the US. India was the foremost member in that club. A country deemed structurally strong enough to fend off shock waves from across the Pacific. The Indian capital market bought into that perception lock stock and barrel, which is eminently evident from the distinct sense of dismissiveness that initially prevailed in the market even as ominous signs began to show up in the American and European economies. Soon, the tremors spread to the Indian economy. First, inflation went out of control. Then the Rupee dived into a bottomless pit. All the cockiness in the markets vanished overnight. Now, the Indian capital market seems even more fragile than its Asian counterparts, which is ironic in the sense that all the other economic powers in Asia such as China, Japan and Korea should be much more susceptible to an US slowdown given the magnitudes of their trades with the US as compared to India.

Truth is that the developing industrial nations of Asia too have long been the feeding ground for investors from supersaturated western economies. Thus, indirectly we too have been held to ransom by western, more specifically, American money. Now that cash has become the most scarce commodity in the US and Europe, it is but natural that foreign investors would like to encash their profits in the highly leveraged Asian markets, chief among them being the Indian market. Be that as it may, India and the rest of Asia will have to learn to live without the west. It is time Asian countries re-aligned themselves to cope with the new world economic order that is about to emerge in the aftermath of the collapse of the West.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

High Time Americans Came To Terms With Reality

I was watching the Suze Orman Show on CNBC last Sunday. It was just a chance viewing as I was browsing through the channels hoping to spend my time a bit more fruitfully. The show interested me a lot. Suze Orman is an American dial-in show where the host advises callers on the management of their financial resources. As the show progressed, there was one aspect in the contents of all the incoming calls that bewildered me.

All the callers who seemed to be quite smug about their financial status had in fact very little to show in terms of savings. Almost every caller wanted advice on spending amounts on something or the other that cost more than they are capable of paying or are precariously close to the limits. One caller was especially interesting. She (the caller) wanted to buy dog food for her pet doggie at a cost of $600 per month when she was actually spending less towards monthly payout for her car loan. On top of that, she had hardly any savings to justify that kind of expenditure. Suze sensibly disapproved of the idea but it definitely points to a kind of ignorance and nonchalance in American society towards financial security that seems to be the prime reason for the state the country is in now. It gives one the impression that Americans have come to know only one way of life – the prodigal. The faith and belief of the American people in the bountifulness and infallibility of the country’s economy has over the decades created a population of mindlessly splurging, happy-go-lucky citizens who are yet to grasp the real meaning and usefulness of financial security. The depression of the 30’s is nothing more than a fairy tale now. The unregulated housing finance system which gives out loans just on the basis of the perceived value of the property being bought without any regard to the fiscal health of the buyers only reflects the anarchy that had crept into the main street of American economy. It is not that writings were not on the wall before this cataclysm. There have been many instances of companies tampering with their financial reports to project a false image of monetary soundness until the ruse falls flat and suddenly the company goes bust. The Enron and Worldcom disasters should have been enough to jolt the Federal Government to act on the flaws in the financial system. On the contrary, the government chose to ignore these instances as mere aberrations and refused to take notice of the signs of the big bubble bursting.

Now that the damage has been done, the government has no other option but to place the taxpaying American’s money as mortgage in an attempt to pull the nation out of this patch of quicksand. If this attempt succeeds, the US will have breathed a huge sigh of relief for retrieving itself from the very jaws of a terrible depression. For it to succeed, the American people will have to show a lot more patriotism and come out in support of the very institutions that have fed their way of life all these years and show faith in their country’s economy more than ever. Because, if this therapy fails – well, we rather not talk about that.

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...