This is both hilarious, so to say, and insightful.
Chris Satullo makes some interesting observations: he ties up the dynamics of free market capitalism to the philosophical tenets of Hinduism, mainly to the “fellow” called Shiva. But he says it well:
Well, Shiva embodies a central paradox of life. To create the new, you must destroy the old. To create fire, you must destroy wood. To make oil, animals must die. For the automobile to prevail, blacksmiths must suffer. For Bill Gates to rise, the typewriter repairman must fall.
The thrust of author is for governments (especially, the US government) to not use narrow field glasses while viewing changing economic dynamics; don’t be rash in pronouncing judgements, good or bad. And although the author tries hard, it is evident that he has his focus on the outsourcing issue that has generated a grossly exaggerated amount of debate.
This article also comes as a breath of fresh air (How I hate these idioms!) in an atmosphere that takes (permits?) only two views: for or against, no middle ground, no objectivity, no analysis–racist attacks masquerading as news reports, unjustified claims about quality of work, and such. What’s more, our own “respectable” Resident Idiots write eloquently on the “evils” of outsourcing, blissfully unaware (or refusal to be aware?) of the opportunities and benefits it has conferred on India.
Government’s job is to defend and expand those public goods. Free markets make that job harder, because their mania for efficiency and innovation creates victims and inequalities. Yet free markets also make that job possible, by generating wealth and innovation which government can tap to heal victims and foster public goods.
And this is where India has (had, at least till a decade or so ago) failed; when we slowly woke up to the idea that free market economy is the only way out of the dark tunnel of socialism that we were all locked up inside, we suddenly found ourselves blinded by the dazzle of almost unlimited choices; we are now waking up to, and fighting hard to get the government move its backside and do just that: to heal victims and foster public goods. All of us understand that this is no mean task given the culture of rot that we have allowed to flourish especially in public life.
But I’m optimistic it will happen because the more prosperous a People become, the more they will be unwilling to fall back on the old ways of a “9 to 5 job in a government office/nationalised bank/PSU,” and the harder they will demand that the government work for them; or they will boot out of office any such non-performing government. This precisely is one of the reason the Congress is finding so hard to convince people to give it another chance…they have no genuine accomplishments to prove that they have helped the country progress. On the other hand, the BJP whatever faults it may have, has done some admirable work: the Golden Quadrilateral, thrust on opening the market, reforms in the Telecom Sector and so on, may be termed as steps in “the right direction.”
But I digress again. Satullo seems to be enamoured with Shiva/Hinduism, when he says:
Any leader worthy of the name must master this dualism. A good leader needs some Hindu in him.
God, I miss Bill Clinton, even more than I want to slap him. He was the Democrat who got it, who mastered the Hindu dualism. He knew that, in the long run, you hurt working people by attacking free trade and innovation. But he also saw that it is an unpardonable breach of faith to ignore the harm those forces do to some workers in the short run.
Even Clinton wasn’t smart enough to predict today’s dilemma. Part of what has tied the Democrats in knots is that his formula – “Yes, your factory job is gone forever, but we’ll train you and your kids for the better knowledge jobs of the future” – didn’t anticipate off-shoring, didn’t see that Bangalore might soon start eating San Jose’s lunch.
This is where India has scored. The vast thousands of “unproductive” Engineering graduates that turned out year after year in the ’80s are now Project Managers/Leads in the same knowledge industry whereas the US higher education system, with its abhorrent costs didn’t permit an average individual to pursue this kind of education. Before the offshoring wave, when the “kids” were being trained in these new fields, India already had an upperhand. Naturally, the jobs came here. Yeah, also add the bit about English language proficiency, the by-product of being ruled by the British, etc etc etc.
I’m looking for a sign, for someone who knows how to dance with Shiva.
Very fascinating, I must admit. I suspect the author has read the classic essay by Anand Coomaraswamy titled The Dance of Shiva; you never know:-) But it helps, definitely to know how to dance with Shiva for he brings in the element of viewing all events of this world wearing equanimous field glasses unlike the ones Bush and others wear today.
Perhaps the outsourcing/offshoring issue wouldn’t sound so shattering to the ears then.