Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Converted to Economics

For 80 years economics was the one subject that I
had the least interest in. Life long
anti-materialism involved a calculated disinterest
in matters of money.

My economic ideal was a man named Bernard de
Marigny, of ancient New Orleans. Starting out as
the richest man in America he managed to go
through every cent before he died. He never
asked any clerk the price of anything.

Of course my own impecunious circumstances made such a habit impossible, but I aspired to it. During the depression we learned to make do with what we had, and after these years I still live by that principle to a large degree.

In 1973 I moved to the D.C. area. A number of my
new friends were economists. I understood that
being an economist was very big in government
employment; that's about all I understood about the matter.

In the waning months of 2006 a change occured. I
read Barnett, then I read Tosh. Two fascinating

Barnett was saying that we need to promote
globalization everywhere. This would obviate the
need for war, and everyone would become
prosperous. If only..... It had to be too good to
be true.

I started thinking about geo-economics. I knew that in 1947 our country made up 6% of the population and commanded over 90% of the world's wealth this may be a mere approximation). In Calcutta I had vividly experienced the tremendous gap between the handful of wealthy people and the great mass of people on the edge of starvation.

Then came Tosh. He half convinced me that India
would soon be right up there with the good ole
U.S.A. in terms of economic, and even military
power, alongside China of course.

I found this gratifying (which may likely antagonize a high proportion of 'good Americans'). But keenly aware of the horrible suffering of old India and of the equally poignant fact that we could certainly not expect to control all the world's wealth indefinitely, I saw this as a creative change. I think everyone is fully aware that our affluence is
a sometime thing, perhaps too extreme to long endure-- also built on borrowing rather than producing, everyone, that is, except the most jingoistic types.

So I have embarked on a new enterprise, going to
school, you might say, studying economics,
especially geo-economics. Where will all this
lead us, the world, I mean. Will it develop in
the shape of Barnett's rosy prediction, and
Tosh's? Or are there imponderables not yet
examined. More to come-- hopefully!


Jon said...

Very interesting. I too, have had zero interest in economics. Now, I'm beginning to be more interested. My teacher says that in the last two years many primarily "spiritual" people are seeking to better understand the "material," and vice versa.

It's an interesting time, eh?

Larry said...

For a person with a vital interest in attacking poverty economic data are of the essence.

For example we hear (from Tosh) that quite a few hundred million people in India have been lifted out of poverty through recent globalization.

Other data suggest that there is just as much poverty in India as there used to be. The two data are not necessarily contradictory because population growth can account for both of them.

Then we find that millions of peasant farmers in backward countries have lost their livelihood (and their land) because of the underselling of our tax subsidized grain, etc. by giant corporations (who incidentally drove millions of American farmers out of business in past years).

It's all very complex, but it's worth bending your mind to try to grasp, that is unless you're really more interested in the latest celebrity blonde sensation.

Tom Friedman in the latest edition of his The World is Flat says that the tremendous economic changes of globalization have not impinged on the consciousness of the American public, but eventually it's going to hit us like a ton of bricks with a rude awakening.

The simple fact is that as a people we had better get smart pretty fast or we're going to be very sorry.

Thanks, Jon for stimulating this further outburst.

Jon said...


isaiah said...

"...the tremendous economic changes of globalization have not impinged on the consciousness of the American public, but eventually it's going to hit us like a ton of bricks with a rude awakening."


anonymous julie said...

I just hope it doesn't hurt too badly... :P

Larry said...

It's going to hurt pretty badly, Julie, unless we get off the stick, especially re plain basic education, like teaching people to read.

Laurie Kruczek said...

Complex sides to the globalization issue, to be sure. I majored in Asian/Asian-American studies and as you said, basically the same issue as China (though their politics/government are literally enslaving their own people). It is hard to discern a personal "policy" on this topic one way and not sound anti-American, or form opinions the other way and feel you are in some way oppressing the very people you wish to uplift. There are no easy answers.

Good luck with this direction of education, Larry. Keep us updated!

PS glad to see you back and blogging :)