As an engineer I like to understand how things work. However maybe unlike many engineers I like to extend this curiosity beyond gadgets and other technical creations and apply it to such things as economics and politics. These explorations in thought delving into these massively complex systems reveal some interesting results. One, they are not hard science. The Nobel Prize in Economics is not really a Nobel prize, being added later. More importantly the reason economics is so apparently rife with inconsistencies and glaring inadequacies is that it is tied closely to the human character and base fears and desires. Too little money can spell death through starvation, exposure or lack of medical treatment. Too much money can be used to buy and sell other human beings; corruption, slavery. Your viewpoint on these points directly influences your political and economic stance.
Over the years I have made many trips to India. It’s almost a cliche but it there is no denying that few countries can incite such love / hate relationships as India. I love it. I hate it. India being a democracy does not hide its poverty. On TV you do not see that just outside the walls of the iconic Taj Mahal are people living in shacks and drying cow dung on the walls. Outside the now numerous 5-star hotels you see similar sights. Now next time you meet a westerner who has returned from India ask about their experience. Responses vary:
- Amazing how creative, smart and hard working these people are. India is the future. Growth is incredible!
- All right, overpowering, a bit nuts, some friendly, smart folk.
- Bloody nightmare, could not wait to get out.
Although the truth behind slums and their position in the grand scheme of things is actually quite nuanced, the key point for me is that some people plain do not see poverty, shielded by mental constructs. Which is incredible since it is everywhere in India. Some people, perhaps a lot of people, are completely blind to it. If asked directly they will say things like, yes it is due to overpopulation, laziness and unwillingness of people to work hard and make a go of it. Ultimately you hear similar crap in the West, such as David Cameron’s “We’re all in it together” approach when slashing public services and care for sick and elderly. Currently the leaders of the three main political parties in the UK are all multi-millionaires despite having never worked a day in their lives outside politics.
This view of the world that an individual has is key to how they see economics and politics. Trickle down or up. Ultimately there are a lot of people who are operating at the basic individual survival mode which in humans has morphed into grab as much as you can for yourself: financial, material and power. You deal with the suffering of others by constructing a framework of lies: God is punishing them for evil in a previous life, they are slackers, opportunities are the same for everyone, we’re all in it together, you go on. You believe that the current model of capitalism is the only option (TINA – There Is No Alternative) and that we in the West are always the good guys when it comes to human rights, trade or conflict. To doubt this implies a crumbling of the mental constructs used to make sense of this confusing and frustrating world. And allowing that to happen exposes us to our own vulnerability and by false implication our own survival. Ayn Rand who counted Alan Greenspan among her devotees described in one of her insane tomes how the rich and powerful moved to an isolated land in Colorado leaving the poor losers to die in misery without the guidance of the elite. Essentially this is what they attempt to do now but instead of some outpost in Colorado, they carve their own dimension within the world, insulated from the masses by willing politicians, media magnates, surveillance, super-injunctions, rigged legal systems, private air travel, etc.
I see that the role of government is to set a standard to which a country wishes to live. This means that we do not accept anything below a certain level for education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure, defense, environment, human rights at home and abroad. These become the benchmark and we do not drop below this. If set sufficiently high, unemployment will be low and a skilled work force with quality infrastructure will emerge to keep the country strong in terms of exports which in turn permits the import of goods that cannot be competitively made at home. In monetary terms an independent country can effectively create any amount of currency it desires to enable this standard of living if it uses internal resources. I will write more on this in a later piece.
In the contemporary world rife with illegal wars, infringements on liberty, an expanding gulf between rich and poor, and out of control climate change I believe that Scottish Independence is a rare chance for a people to make a difference. Perhaps I’m guilty of being naive and building my own false map of the world, but until I become blind to the lot of others it’s the best hope I’ve seen for quite some time.