||[Jan. 6th, 2008|03:28 pm]
It's only a few days into the new year and already Scott Aaronson has set the bar pretty high with a candidate for my personal favorite 2008 quote of the year:
India: where every imaginable entity with wheels, feet, or hooves can be found on the road, making deafening noises while swerving to kill you; the water’s not even safe for toothbrushing; the beggars have their own beggars; and the cellphone network is more reliable than anything in the US. So true, every word of it. I arrived here about a week ago, and a couple of days later at lunch, I was too arrogant to ask for bottled water. I immediately fell violently ill, and am only now slowly recovering.
The part about beggars having their own beggars is the best. John Edwards famously railed about "two Americas"; I wonder what he'd have to say about the fact that there are around seven Indias, each one significantly wealthier in comparison with the last.
Most people see this as a huge problem. I suspect they also don't know very much about economics. In reality, each of these economic strata is upwardly mobile, and the poorest one has been consistently shrinking. It's called the trickle-down effect. While some people love to make fun of it, it's the only thing that seems to work, at least in developing countries. Trying to directly change the lives of the "poorest of the poor", on the other hand, sounds very noble, but is actually a lot like trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
This brings me to the next part of Aaronson's quote, about the cellphone network. Cellphones are merely the most visible aspect of India's bounce from the dark days of the socialist Raj into vibrant capitalism. The way I see it, the big change of the 90s was the State giving up trying to exert overarching control over private enterprise. The big change of this decade has been the State realizing that it is imperative for its own survival to support business interests. In the latest sign of this trend, comrades Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, two of the country's most well known commies, seem to have reached new conclusions:
"Socialism is a far cry. Socialism is our political agenda and it was mentioned in our party document but capitalism will continue to be the compulsion for the future".Oh, look who has their foot in their mouth!
My friend Samanth argues in a piece for The New Republic that journalists covering India are prone to cliches and generalizations. There is of course more to say about India's economy than simply trumpeting the horn of capitalism. I am no journalist; I won't even pretend to avoid the sound bites and lazy analogies—they are the stuff that blog posts are made of!
For the record, my personal favorite 2007 quote of the year is
Admit it - back in the 20th Century, none of you imagined that World War III would be Robots vs. Muslims. Seems obvious now.Try not to get offended, it's supposed to be funny.