Dear friends, ordinary folks East and West,

Academics and professionals usually get into a rut of ideas. Over a period of time it retards their ability to think originally. They merely continue further along the rut even when circumstances call for a radical change of thinking. 

Larry Summers, One-time US Treasury Secretary and noted Harvard economist, asserts that it is dangerous for Western economies to depend on the progress of India and China to sort out the West’s own economic problems. He is right. But when he seeks to assert that all economies are bound to crash at some point and that India and China will not be able to maintain their high growth rate for long, I think he is fundamentally wrong.

In case of both the developing and the developed countries, he is basing his arguments on financial statistics past and present. Also, probably, on future projections of financial numbers based on the current gloomy scenario. He sees only the waves, not the sea beneath.

In economics, financial numbers should only be treated as the superficial symptoms they are of economic wellbeing or illness, just as the temperature of the human body is merely a superficial indicator of many possibilities of disease. The basic body tissue of Economics is the human being, not currency value or interest rates or GDP numbers. It is high time that economists realized this. I wonder if there isn’t even a silent conspiracy among academics and the financial industry to brush this basic fact under the carpet with a wink and a nod when the occasion arises.

I myself had an extensive discussion once with a stupid economist who kept insisting that the performance of India’s economy had nothing to do with India’s social conditions….as if people are accidental, unnecessary and irrelevant adjuncts to the great drama named “Economics!” that is being played out by cosmic forces with certain select people of the world in the cast. The social maladies of India are very much the cause of India’s economic under-performance so far. Indeed India’s economic under-performance is merely the thermometer that says India has a social sickness to deal with.

I believe the present financial, and consequently Economic, crisis in the developed Western countries is an indication of deep social maladies. The degradation of the Family as a social unit that has happened in the West over the last fifty to sixty years is as bad as the casteism in India. Another possible contributor is the erosion of the dignity of Woman, in spite of all the talk of equality and empowerment. East or West, the basic issues need to be addressed.  

Summers and his colleagues can talk endlessly of growth rates and GDPs but, in spite of their intellectual abilities, there will be no meaningful debate unless they get out of their one-track thought processes.  

Let us hope and try for real change. Let us try and MAWBPLA!

Jacob J. Mappilacherry