Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Memailed #4: We Are the Creditors

Suketu Mehta has a great opinion piece in today's New York Times called "A Passage From India" in tribute to the E.M. Forster novel. A better title, I think, would have been "We Are the Creditors":

Read more below the jump.

There is a perverse hypocrisy about the whole jobs debate, especially in Europe. The colonial powers invaded countries like India and China, pillaged them of their treasures and commodities and made sure their industries weren't allowed to develop, so they would stay impoverished and unable to compete. Then the imperialists complained when the destitute people of the former colonies came to their shores to clean their toilets and dig their sewers; they complained when later generations came to earn high wages as doctors and engineers; and now they're complaining when their jobs are being lost to children of the empire who are working harder than they are. My grandfather was once confronted by an elderly Englishman in a London park who asked, "Why are you here?" My grandfather responded, "We are the creditors." We are here because you were there.

There was a time when arable land and minerals were the real growth sectors.
When (non-oil) natural resources made military conquest of some places profitable.
When a few thousand Englishmen could run the subcontinent.
When a nation with an elite made up of professional soldiers could effectively dominate others.
And the merchants and the people with technical knowledge were relatively less important.

But now, for a healthy economy, a country relies much more on smart, well-educated people and a relatively orderly and free society.
Not so easy to retain the value in that after you've marched in with guns.
Pretty hard to make it happen at home while privileging your majority ethnic group above people with high-value labor who want to immigrate.

The world's high school math club has grown up, and they're realizing they're in much better shape than the kids on the football team who made their lives so unpleasant.

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