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The Demographic Myths of Our Self-Centered Age

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The term demographic-economic paradox refers to the inverse relationship between economic progress and birth rates. Education and wealth go up at the cost of birth rates. This has been observed in almost all developed and developing nations. Although countries like China and India have government-sponsored programs to restrict their populations, unbiased population metrics from the Western countries and industrialized Asian nations like Japan and South Korea confirm this.

In my economics and civics classes in high school, India's population growth rates were partly attributed to the farming community's labour-intensive trade, in which more children (especially male) meant more farmhands and therefore more revenue. As agriculture declined as a percentage of the GDP, and agricultural income for farming families began to be artificially kept low in India due to the presence of Government intermediaries and established "fair prices," besides the low per capita land holding that has been established, more children began to translate into more cost and much less revenue. India was one of the first countries to encourage family planning. This came to an undesirable extreme in the seventies when Sanjay Gandhi forcefully sterilized, some say up to a million people, in an attempt to control population growth. For an economy growing at a snail's pace of 2 to 3 percent a year from a poor base, more population simply meant fewer resources per capita and therefore a diminished standard of living. After Gandhi's forced sterilization program met with outraged protests and a change of government took place, the family planning program has been far more benign, playing the role of an advisor and encourager.

China has been another aggressive implementer of family planning, imposing stiff penalties on couples who had more than one child. Many have written about social problems and future economic problems that this has posed or will pose. Other measures like prohibition of gender determination have led to fewer female child abortions lately, but the gender imbalance in both these countries remains sharp.

The US has no such government program but has experienced the decline in birth rates that all industrialized countries have. Unlike some other countries, like Sweden and Norway, which experience declining population growth rates, the US has kept up a rate of over 2 percent due to better population replacement rates internally, as well as through immigration. Even so, the US has an aging population which will be supported by the younger citizens in the years to come. This is especially clear in the case of the Social Security funds which are now being propped up by payments made by those still working to cover the retirees. In 20 years there will be a small section of the population (younger taxpayers) supporting a larger group of aged retirees, meaning there will be insufficient funds in Social Security. This is expected to lead to need-based rationing and/or provisioning of funds, as well as a cut in the percentage of per capita allowance of these funds.

India has a rapid GDP growth rate, as high as 7.5 percent in the recessionary 2009-10 years. China too, has not skipped a beat in its blistering growth. However the economic effects of a smaller percentage of younger population are expected to show up in 30 years. This will mean fewer resources to deploy in critical manufacturing and services for export in which these countries have specialized, less availability of specialized labour to meet the growth rates needed to continue growth, a skewed distribution of labour in several fields and of course, the dangers of a gender imbalance.  At present the danger of a small cohort of young people supporting the aged does not seem imminent, as the percentage of younger people is quite high in these countries. One-fifth of the total world population under 20 years of age is in India. As they enter the labour force the opportunities and resources are bound to be stretched, but the market that they represent as consumers in an expanding economy will be sizable.

Here is the paradox of population economics in simple terms. The world over, statistics on population remind us that hunger, disease, malnutrition, unemployment, underemployment, exploitation and other ills stalk the majority of the population. Countries that have sought to implement population controls have mostly been socialistic in the past or continue to be so today to some extent. It is easy to understand why. A socialistic view of population regards it as a partaker of the total wealth of the nation. The fewer the people, the better the per capita income. This is true for countries in which the buying power of people is less. When GDP rates remain low, resources get divided again and again, translating into smaller populations. Land is one such resource. But standards of living are based on many other goods than simply the limited natural resources of the world. India and China realized several years ago that their populations are an asset to them in an export-oriented, free trading, outsourcing world. Large teams in India could be deployed very quickly to provide application development services or financial and accounting services, while large masses of the rural population in China could find employment in the manufacturing boom towns on the east coast. In the past 15 years these workers have also increased domestic consumption in these countries, leading to stronger economies that have so far withstood the assault of the global recession. As income rates grew, and national GDP grew consistently over a decade, these countries began thinking along new lines concerning their populations, asking who are the employable people within their population.

Indian companies have had to implement stringent recruiting norms to avoid hiring fewer skilled employees in the face of burgeoning demand. They also began to face skewed labour distributions. Engineers in India wanted to work in IT and less in other fields. In China the long-predicted takeover of the services sector has not happened because they have not been able to train enough people in the English language, despite massive Government initiatives. People want to take the shortest route to wealth and do not toe the party line.

As these populations increase, the countries are looking to educate them better. After all, sustainable economic growth comes from domestic production, domestic consumption and domestic innovation. When the pie is fixed the impetus to share is limited. As the pie grows in size, the partakers realize that more the workers, mean a larger pie. The trick is to ensure better productivity.

This brings us back full circle to the old agricultural paradigm. At one time agriculture was relatively profitable, indeed, it may well have been the oldest profession. As other fields of endeavour eclipsed its position in the economy, its predominance declined and the number of employee/children farm hands also declined. These former farm hands moved on to manufacturing or services where the money was.

If one kept aside the limited resources our world offers, land, water, fossil fuels and others, one must ask the question, are all our population control programs barking up the wrong tree? Sure enough, there are several millions who are not part of the economic growth enjoyed by a section of the population of the emerging nations and the majority of the people in developed countries. If this were considered a reason to continue these programs, one must then ask, is there a real redistribution of resources, education, skill and other essentials needed for a safe, healthy and progressing life that is being shared with the have-nots? Of course there is, but only a trickle. Within the emerging nations, the have-nots are part of the economy. In a trickle-down sense, these people survive from the crumbs that fall from the tables of the haves. Despite the revulsion that this image may conjure up in our minds, the reality is that they are better off than the have-nots in countries that are laggards in this economic rat race.

Putting this question in another way: if economic jump-starts in the emerging nations worked wonders for them, why are the other nations left behind in this race? The reasons are plenty and obvious: lack of political cohesion, a population that is already riddled with horrors of war, AIDS, religious and other strife. It appears that many governments and even some of us may already have classified these people as "unemployable," or worse, "dispensable."

It is my view that population control programs in most parts of the world are predatory measures that are set up to eliminate the unemployables and the dispensables looking for a bigger bite of the pie before them. Perhaps the evil of any economic system is not so much that it exploits the people it employs, but that it leaves out the people it deems unnecessary. Well-meaning leaders could take a leaf out of rehabilitation programs that NGOs implement in areas affected by natural disasters. Their goal is to infuse capital into not just rebuilding homes, but creating sustainable communities of skilled people that can rise up from the ashes of destruction. The direction of capital into future opportunities is the spirit of free enterprise, but it takes visionaries to initiate this into populations deemed the refuse of the earth. Perhaps the failing of capitalism is that it has failed to recognize the ability of people to emancipate themselves and therefore stayed its hand in investing into their future.

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About Wayfaring Stranger

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Editors –

    Off topic – but in the other article published today (“Midas Touch”), I cannot go to the second page of the article or post a comment – the mouseover doesn’t change into the little hand over links within the body of the article (and no, I don’t know how to say that more professionally 🙁 ).

  • Thanks for the heads-up, Glenn, it’s fixed now (and I totally understood what you meant).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    WS –

    I love your article…but I must disagree with your conclusion that population control measures are ‘predatory measures’ against the poor, apparently for the benefit of the moneyed.

    I usually try to keep from condemning someone for something they’ve done unless I can determine the presence of malice. If I can prove malicious intent, then I will vociferously condemn the offender; but if I cannot, I do try to keep from judging them. I’m not always successful in refraining from judgement…but I do try.

    My point is…can you prove malicious intent by the propagators of the population control measures? If so, then attack as you will and I’ll stand with you against such evil. If not, then you and I may still protest as strongly as we can…but I would recommend refraining from accusing them of malicious intent unless you can prove the presence of malice.

    But I still loved your article. I recently read how even China’s population is beginning the trend towards an aging society…and once the populations of India and China have aged to something approaching the degree of the Europeans, who then will claim the title of the manufacturing heart of the world?

    I don’t know…but no one can deny India and China the opportunities now enjoyed by most of the West.

  • I actually agree with Glenn. I found most of the article interesting and informative, but I don’t see how it supports the radical conclusion which the author draws. The conclusion implies conscious control of demographic change which verges on some sort of soft genocide, and I don’t see the evidence to support that claim.

    I also take issue with the “refuse of the earth” thesis. Capitalism is actually attracted to the poorest cultures because they provide a source of less expensive labor for labor intensive industries. When capitalists move in to “exploit” those workers it gives a boost to the local economy, provides more revenue for local governments, and unless those governments are utterly corrupt, that means more services and more education and ultimately better conditions for everyone in that society.

    It’s not an overnight process, but what many think of as exploitation is actually a symbiotic relationship which eventually brings less developed contries along much faster than if they were just left alone.


  • Vijai

    Hi Glenn-

    Many thanks for your comments. I see your point. I wonder though if we can be predators without meaning to be. If you take a look at China’s one child policy, couples who can afford pay ythe hefty government penalty for having a second child can still have one. This of course means that the poorer couples cannot have a second child. It is doubtless with altruisitic intent, viz. the desire to reduce the societal and family cost of raising a child. But its implications are that a poorer family’s progeny is systematically and systemically reduced in number. The less the number of the poor that share in the pie the more the share of the wealthier.

    But as I said I do see your point. I’m changing it to counter-productive, though it takes awway some of the shock. This word is from the perspective of the lawmakers; and the word ‘predatory’ is from that of the ‘victims’. It may be worth exploring if this indeed may be predatory with intent- but that is the scope of another article!

    Another reader sent me feedback via email that it was Sanjay Gandhi and not Rahul Gandhi (who is a youth icon in politics in India today and the newphew of said Sanjay) who initiated the draconian sterlization program.

    I will make the edits.

    Once again- thanks for your very courteous and insightful comments.,

  • Vijai

    Hi Dave,

    If you notice I make a distinction in the article between the people in countries like India and China where such investment into poorer people has taken place (and produced results) and other countries where no such investment has taken place. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa for instance. I attributed some of the neglect to political, health and other risks.

    I think you will agree that I have not spared the socialistic ideology from criticism either. Perhaps one could say that free trade as we know is not free enough to have every sidelined society participate fairly.

  • Vijai

    Looks like edits are not possible. Hopefully an editor can help me with this,.

  • Baronius

    “Perhaps the evil of any economic system is not so much that it exploits the people it employs, but that it leaves out the people it deems unnecessary.”

    That’s a really powerful insight.

  • Clavos


    Looks like edits are not possible. Hopefully an editor can help me with this,.

    Please transact editorial matters either via the edlist, or in this case, directly with me as your editor, not in the threads.

    Thank you. You have my email address.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I strongly agree with Baronius’ comment #8. I must have missed that one.

    Well said, Vijai.

  • Perhaps one could say that free trade as we know is not free enough to have every sidelined society participate fairly.

    I think this is a good point. The places where trade has brought the most benefit are those where it has been allowed to be free and relatively unhindered by government. When government starts taking a disproportionate cut out of the profits and therefore also out of the wages of workers the benefits are reduced proportionally.

    In ideal circumstances everyone benefits, but if you have a dictator like a Mugabe in power he keeps the benefits from the people and the profits away from the businesses, often with the result that his country is just bypassed or shunned by international interests.


  • Mark

    …what many think of as exploitation is actually a symbiotic relationship which eventually brings less developed contries along much faster than if they were just left alone.

    Yup…without slavery nowhere near as many Blacks in America would have color TV. I just love that symbiosis.

  • “. . . what many think of as exploitation is actually a symbiotic relationship which eventually brings less developed contries along much faster than if they were just left alone.”

    Excellent point, Mark.

    And it’s so much in line with what has been seconded as profound remark by Baronius, by such luminaries as Glenn, for instance, namely, that

    “Perhaps the evil of any economic system is not so much that it exploits the people it employs, but that it leaves out the people it deems unnecessary.”

    I find both remarks perfidious.

    Glenn is obviously seduced by clever rhetoric. Dave is a true believer, this much I grant him. It’s the perfidy of Baronius that disconcerts me the most.

    Presumably a Christian man, Catholic as he may be, somehow he takes solace in the fact that not everyone is being exploited.

    Go figure!

    And yes, let’s root for color TV as among the most prominent advances of capitalism and bringing well-being and prosperity to all and all alike.

  • Vijai

    Hi Roger,

    Could you explain why you find these statements perfidious? I cannot speak for Dave, but it appears to me that he wasn’t justifying exploitation in the form of slavery, racism, the Holocaust or any such thing, but rather employing people in poor nations who would otherwise not be employed.

    Mark’s comment seems to be a misinterpretation, misunderstanding, misuse or (hopefully not) abuse of the sense in which Dave used the term ‘exploitation’.

    I prefer discussion to rhetoric in these debates. I would use rhetoric only to sum up my points. Would love to understand your statement better.

  • Cindy

    This should prove to be an interesting conversation.

  • What is it that you fail to understand Vijai? I have no sacred cows since I am not from India.

    So what sacred cows do you subscribe to?

  • And to recap, what part of “exploitation” don’t you understand?

    It’d seem to me that you can’t parcel it beyond the original meaning, there being no more than one part to the term.

    Exploitation is exploitation is exploitation.

    That’s plain English, no ifs ands or buts about it.

    I should think the term speaks for itself.

  • Mark

    The sense in which I read Dave to use the term was “what many think of as exploitation”, as in the abuse of the power relationship between countries in the control of resources.

    Redefining economic exploitation as a basically positive symbiosis is … perfidious.

  • Vijai

    We exploit natural resources like wind for energy, but it is not an abuse. We exploit business opportunities, as in make the most of them. We also exploit situations, as in leverage them to achieve our goals. Dave also mentions “what many think of as exploitation”, clearly meaning he doesn’t think of it as such… but I’ll let him speak for himself. The context of his statement is my last paragraph concerning the lack of investment into neglected sections of the world, such as some countries in Africa or a section of the people in emerging nations. Without context, your comments seem pretty tangential.

    But at least one can see that none of us is simply endorsing all kinds of exploitation to be objectively, absolutely right.

    I like the fact that you are a provocateur- I especially like your India/Sacred Cows motif- but you have to try harder in this case. It is no skin off my nose if you give it a different meaning that I intended- most readers can understand what I mean. I do try to see the best side of your argument. For instance, even if none of us could justify the denial of equal rights to poorer people, how is it different from simply paying lower wages to poor people? Good question and it takes into a different direction, but it is hardly the scope of this article or the commenters.

    You applauded Mark for bringing racial prejudice into his statement where it did not exist before. You say Glenn is seduced by clever rhetoric. But then you say it is “the perfidy of Baronius” that concerns you the most- when both said the same thing. Wonder why?

    It doesn’t seem like you have no sacred cows. Mine are clear enough from the article. Why should any reader try to dig beyond what I’ve written to see if I have a secret agenda. If you agree or disagree with the article, I’m fine with it as long as you can help me understand why.

    Thanks for your comments though.

  • What is perfidious, to top it all, is to reduce human, moral relations to biological relations.

    Anything can be call symbiotic from the biological standpoint, even the relationship of a parasite to its host. But to apply the rules of the jungle as the right kind of model to govern human communities is perfidy.

    But then again, I must cut Vijai some slack, because the Buddhist tradition does speak to a kind of symbiotic unity with everything that exists. We’re all part of the same and the one.

    So from that particular standpoint, I suppose I do understand him.

  • Vijai


    Okay- Investment into a foreign country could be interpreted by some as exploitation of that country’s labor, resources, etc. I can see that though I may not always agree.

    Most foreign investors or outsourcing companies in India pay pretty competitve wages. But then there have been cases in which abuse of such investment as in Bhopal (1984) has occured.

    But is this a good reason to keep from investing at all? Isn’t this a reason to examine labor laws, their eimplementation, penalties in case of non-compliance, etc in both the investing and investee countries?

  • Vijai,

    I do make a relevant distinction between the two men because I read then differently – and that’s apart from whether they utter the same form of words or not.

    You should be sensitive to that concept if you seriously care to address the decadent West.

    We’re not as innocent as you may be, nor are we as saintly as you, so forgive me but context does play an important part in our deliberations.

    A Western prejudice, perhaps. And I’ll be the first to admit we’re over-analytical. The Oriental philosophy does certainly have a great deal to recommend itself, if only to stop us in our tracks lest we become arrogant. But don’t expect me now to abandon my way of thinking and embrace all of your precepts wholesale.

    There has got to be a give and take here, even you must admit it.

  • Wow, we may yet have an intelligent discussion here, despite Vijai’s obvious bias of reducing biological to moral terms – a la symbiosis.

    Cindy, you were right.

  • Mark

    But is this a good reason to keep from investing at all? Isn’t this a reason to examine labor laws, their eimplementation, penalties in case of non-compliance, etc in both the investing and investee countries?

    And when you lower roi through these processes (and only after the investors have had their gluttonous go at the feast) will the money not logically move on leaving your workers out in the cold?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    That’s one reason I tend to trust you – you’ll tell me when you think I’m right, and you’ll tell me when you think I’m way off the reservation, and you’re using no political agenda to influence your opinion of me.

    That said, can you name any political or economic system in the world that doesn’t exploit at least some workers to at least some degree? Of course some systems (such as western Europe’s) exploits less than America’s, and far less than China’s…but all systems exploit someone. I really don’t think you can disagree with that.

    However, there are political and economic systems which give legal protection to the less fortunate…and there are political and economic systems which do not. IMO it is this difference to which Vijai was referring, and I agree with his statement.

    Given any particular country, which is better? To be exploited, yet still be an accepted part of the country, to have more of an opportunity to change one’s station in life? Or to be within that country but not be an accepted part of that country or the society and culture thereof? In the latter situation, if one is exploited, how does one’s opportunities compare to those of one who IS an accepted part of that country?

    And to strengthen the argument a bit more…think of the plight of the ‘untouchable’ caste in India. Perhaps they are who Vijai had in mind when he wrote that particular statement.

    Even though we disagree, you are still certainly one of those from whom I appreciate criticism.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Mark –

    You’re a poor jobless man in a third-world country. Choose one:

    1 – A factory opens up. You’ll sweat your butt off working long, hard hours in fairly unsafe conditions for a boss who could care less if you live or die, or

    2 – A factory opens up. You don’t want to work in a sweatshop, so you stay unemployed and your children still don’t eat.

    Choose one.

  • Mark

    3. I join the rebels in the mountains.

  • Vijai

    Mark, not if the returns are compelling enough. It is fallacious to assume that all emerging nations are unfair uniformly in paying wages. I mentioned before that one of the reasons investment doesn’t take place in some countries could cimply be corruption. I would the rule of law to the list of reasons. Many insurance companies are reluctant to invest in Russia for this reason.

    Paying low wages is not always the reason why a company invests abroad; it could be that the country’s domestic market can absorb the price of a product or service even if with fair wages.

    That said, if fair wages are a detriment to foreign investment, then such investment is simply not the kind of emancipation I talked about in the article. It doesn’t empower people, rather it reduces them to precisely the kind of commodities the family planners considered them.

  • Vijai

    Mark, my reply (#28) was in response to your post #24.

    To your post #27- there are many in India who rebel against the government from the mountains- they are an outlawed group which calls itself the ‘Communist Part of India-Marxist, Leninist’ which called ‘Maoists’ by the rest in India. They are an internationally connected group in India with ties to subversive political elemtns in China, Nepal, the Philippines and other countries. Their methods are pretty brutal against both Indian soldiers and civilians.

    I think I can safely assume that these are not the kind of rebels you would join, but rather those of a justice-seeking, perhaps even non-violent, civil-disobedient variety.

    In such a situation I would certainly join you in such a group, but I would work to make my ends meet as well. In a stratified society that is unjust by passivity and indifference; and not by any conscious slavery, I may still have a chance to right the wrongs if the rule of law exists.

  • Thanks, Glenn.

    Of course we’re not living in a perfect world, and historically, no question all if not most economic systems have been based on exploitation. But I’m certain you’re not going to argue that’s right.

    Question: Why can’t cooperation be adopted as the organizing principle? Why not pay the workers and laborers fair wages?

    I do disagree with STM on lots of issues – mostly, his blind belief in Anglo-Saxon law as the protector of our way of life – but I will give him one thing, He is adamant about workers getting their fair share. They’re the indispensable element of the production process. Human labor is just as important, if not more, than capital.

    I’m certain you don’t disagree with any of the above. Nonetheless, I do appreciate your distinction, the same distinction Vijai may have had in mind, as regards the treatment of the outcast.

    But after all is said and done, I simply refuse to honor arguments on behalf of comparative advantages and disadvantages. I refuse to pat myself on the back simply because we’re doing better than our neighbors or the rest of the world.

    As far as I am concerned, human dignity is on the line, and exploitation has no legitimate part to play in any such schema. It’s not to be relativized or sugar-coated in the interest of “the greater good,” or any instrumental purpose one may think of.

    It’s simply wrong – morally wrong, I should add – and my position is it ought not be condoned in the interest of “greater utility.”

    Let’s just disavow ourselves of the practice, in the same way that usury once was, condemned as it should have been by the Catholic church.

    Wrong is wrong, Glenn. I simply refuse to console myself with arguments to the contrary.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Mark –

    If you run to the mountains, you can’t feed your children. How do you feed your children?

  • Mark

    That said, if fair wages are a detriment to foreign investment, then such investment is simply not the kind of emancipation I talked about in the article. It doesn’t empower people, rather it reduces them to precisely the kind of commodities the family planners considered them.

    Vijai, we agree on this, and on our choice of ‘rebels’.

  • Mark

    Actually, Glenn, my children might well fare better with the rebels. See the Zapatista’s in Mexico for an example.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not condoning exploitation – of course not! But nations and cultures are as they are…and we have to deal with them – and with people – as best we can.

    I think a wonderful example is China, perhaps the single most exploited nation of the past two centuries (between the Opium Wars and the Japanese and the ‘friendship’ they had with the Soviet Union…and a little someone named Mao). Their working conditions for so long were deplorable at best…but they’re getting better – and in some places, a LOT better.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you yourself are imposing your morality (that you share with millions of other good people)…but hundreds of millions of equally good people face the same dilemma I presented to Mark, and so willingly allow themselves to be exploited in the hope that sooner or later they can rise above their station…

    …as so many millions in China have done – and also in the Philippines where I will be retiring later this year.

    You can’t impose your morality, Roger…but you CAN help to improve their station by doing business with them.

    I’ll never forget last year when we went to Baguio, a mountain resort in the Philippines. My wife and I were eating at a restaurant, and a young woman was working hard to serve us. We left a 200-piso (four-dollar) tip and walked to the door. Behind us we heard a loud squeal and looked back, and the young woman was jumping up and down in glee, saying “Akin na! Akin na!” (It’s mine now!). The next day we paid thirty dollars for a three-hour, 100-mile cab ride to the beach. He honestly didn’t expect the ten-dollar tip, and would’ve been happy with the thirty dollars.

    So while you and I might call paying lower wages ‘exploitation’, those who are being exploited might actually be calling it an opportunity to someday rise above their present station. But I’ll be the first to say that it should be their call, not yours or mine.

  • “That said, if fair wages are a detriment to foreign investment, then such investment is simply not the kind of emancipation I talked about in the article. It doesn’t empower people, rather it reduces them to precisely the kind of commodities the family planners considered them.”

    That is a fair statement.

    It’s a whole another thing, however, to argue that companies investing overseas are motivated only by the domestic markets. They’ll do what they can and what they can get away with.

    It’s not an ideal world, Vijai, get it through your head. And even though India, or whatever country you may be from, may benefit as a result, exploitation is exploitation.

    I doesn’t matter how nicely you’re trying to dress it up. It’s still ugly to the core.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Mark –

    Actually, Glenn, my children might well fare better with the rebels. See the Zapatista’s in Mexico for an example.

    And maybe not – see the drug war going on in Mexico right now.

    But let’s play your game for a moment. New choice:

    1 – Be exploited by working long, hard hours for little money at the factory.

    2 – Stay unemployed and have no way to feed your children.

    3 – Head up to the mountains and join the rebels…with the full knowledge that you’ve no assurance that your children will be fed, and a strong likelihood that they’ll receive FAR less education being so far away from the city (and I can cite you many, many examples of this just off the top of my head). And don’t forget – you’re with the rebels, which means you might be trying to raise your kids in a war zone.

    What will a responsible parent do?

    P.S. I’ll be living in Metro Manila later this year – and it’s FAR safer there than in the mountains…and safer than in many parts of America. Compared to most Americans, I do have somewhat of a clue when it comes to third-world countries (but there are BC writers (like Dave, Clavos, Vijai, and several others) whose experience matches or far exceeds my own).

  • Cindy

    The places where trade has brought the most benefit are those where it has been allowed to be free and relatively unhindered by government.

    Which places would these be, Dave?

  • Vijai


    While I agree with your last comment, there is another dilemma that I have not been able to resolve. China, India and many other countries employ workers at wages which may be low by their own standards. There are certain points at which it very clearly becomes indentured labor and we simply cannot keep from protesting. Other examples- child labor, prostitution, etc. In the Philippines an organization called the International Justice Mission which I deeply respect works with government agencies and the local police force to expose such instances of modern slavery, especially sexual slavery. On one occasion reported in the US media, however, when a local ‘whorehouse’ in the country was reported, raided and the girls there were told that they were finally free, one of them asked an IJM worker ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ This was their only means of income. IJM does provide rehabilitation services as well. These rehabilitation services include providing decent employment which would still not meet the First World’s criteria of being paid fairly, but it is not dehumanizing as prostitution is.

    Another example. I was en route to India from the US last summer on a flight which stopped in Dubai for a day’s layover. Some friends took me around the city. Dubai is a clean, gleaming, rich city that looks a lot like some US cities. Of course it is common knowledge though that over 46 percent of the city’s residents do not live in conditions anywhere close to what you see in Dubai. They- mostly immirgants from South Asia, South Eas Asia and China- live in squalid conditions in a towen 2 hours awawy from downtown called Sonapu- literally the ‘City of Gold’ in Hindi. The workers live 10 to a room, with no air conditioning in temperatures touching 120 F, paid poorly- but enough to send some meagre savings to relatives (after sharing a small apartment with several others). Many are badly treated, work nearly 18 hours a day in appaling conditions.

    Dubai’s citizens get angry when their plight is mentioned. They are outraged that a foreigner (especially if she happens to be a Westerner) can raise such topics when her own history is full of exploitation. Besides, they say, the workers are free to leave. Why don’t they? They do not because they would rather live as slaves and earn their meager pay than live freely with their families and in extreme poverty in their countries.

    Noone in their right mind could call this ethical, morally right or anything near it. But there is a crazy logic to the Dubai-ite’s argument. Perhaps the better question to ask is: if Dubai can call itself a First World country, then what business does it have exploiting people in their own soil?

    Or perhaps we should ask ourselves, what business do we have supporting such countries with our business or political allegiences? I think you and I know that these will remain rhetorical questions. Human interactions in business and politics are often very pragmatic. In that sense I can agree with Roger when he says ‘Wrong is Wrong’. But I also think we have to engage the powers that be in changing laws. No change happens in the blink of an eye.

  • Glenn,

    I happen to think that we’ve come to the point, all humanity in fact, that we can help and fend for one another without the usual guise. Let’s just do it.

    Capitalism is a disease, soon to be proven an anachronism. It had never improved the quality of people’s lives beyond providing them with material goods – refrigerators, color TVs, all that nonsense.

    Believe you me. I wasn’t born here. I am Russian and Polish, though I have long lost touch. These people are happier, without all the amenities that America provides to all its citizens and all wanna-bees than the poor folk who have none of this. Their spirit is unmatched; ours, perhaps because we tend to value everything by what’s material in life, sucks.

    I don’t count material progress as progress, not always and not necessarily. That’s a peculiarly American idea, and I have great reservations about it. It’s dumbing our population, making it into robots. Is this what you want?

    Fuck consumer goods, fuck WalMart and all the amenities. Human spirit is far more important to me than creature comforts, never mind opulence. We’re more like an Animal Farm than a human society.

    And you’re trying to sell this program to the rest of the world?

  • Cindy

    26 – What is the point Glenn? Let’s say I toss you into a walled ghetto prison and the choice is:

    A) Kill and eat rats
    B) Starve

  • Vijai

    Roger, your comment: “It’s a whole another thing, however, to argue that companies investing overseas are motivated only by the domestic markets. They’ll do what they can and what they can get away with.”

    I don’t disagree. But to say that they are motivated only by low wages is also equally a fallacy.

    I think you are influenced by a lot of similar debates with several others that you think I imply something when I do not. I’m really unable to understand some of your points which are out of line with what I have been talking about. It may be perhaps that as an Indian I’m completely clueless and obtuse about your superior comprehension and logical acbility.

  • $37

    Great point, Cindy.

    But I’ve long given up on being a careful reader on some of our contributors.

  • Cindy

    Question: Why can’t cooperation be adopted as the organizing principle? Why not pay the workers and laborers fair wages?

    Because the entire model is based on competition. It is counter-productive. Also, in order to manufacture consumers one needs to brainwash people into attending to insignificant trivial and judge each other and themselves based on superficial qualities.

    The whole idea of cooperation would be based on actually thinking of people as human beings, instead of objects. If people started to do that, the system of Capitalism would not work.

  • Mark

    Vijai #41, I don’t think anyone is arguing for ‘only’. But from this side of the pond(s) it looks like low wages are a pretty important motivation.

  • Cindy

    43 – More: Profit markets require predatory practices.

  • Cindy

    I have a lot to say to #34 Glenn. I might need until tomorrow. I have to look something up. So check back, for an eventual response.

  • Mark. Now, 200 years after the heydey of slavery, who is better off, the black African or the black American?

    I rest my case.


  • No need to get on a defensive, Vijai. As a matter of fact, I respect your reasoning powers. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to be discussing matter with such as yourself than the average American and his or her dull mentality.

    But to get to the point, Vijai.

    I simply don’t believe that the raison d’être, the main motivation behind foreign investment is anything like you are proposing. To spell it out, it’s just a version of colonialism, pure and simple. And again, dress it as you like, I simply won’t buy it.

    I am truly sorry that for some inexplicable reason you feel obligated to kowtow to the powers that be – American imperialism, Western kind of benevolence, the Manifest Destiny or the White Man’s Burden.

    For myself, I’m happy to say that I have been liberated from these rather oppressive concepts.

    But what I do regret, however, is that you’re still somehow beholden by the West.

    See, Vijai. I am more critical of my own country than you can ever imagine. But you, on the other hand, are trying to valorize it.

    And for what reason? Simply because India, or whatever country you’re from, is likely to benefit from America’s stupidity?

    I would say, Vijai, that what you’re expressing thus far, your principled stand on behalf of capitalism and free markets, even if it involves exploitation, is a poor excuse indeed for pure selfishness and fending for yourself, your countrymen and all.

    I will not say it improper motivation. We all should care for all who are dear to us.

    Still, you’re being disingenuous. You espouse the goodness that is likely to incur to your own county, any country in fact, even it comes as a result of injustice.

  • The places where trade has brought the most benefit are those where it has been allowed to be free and relatively unhindered by government.

    Which places would these be, Dave?

    Hong Kong would be an excellent example. Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, plenty of others. You can look at the developing world and see a direct relationship between the level of free trade, the level of government corruption and the rate of economic development.


  • Vijai

    You presume more than needed, Roger.

    Help me undestand- what do you suggest poor communities do to enhance their lives?

    I’m not rooting for India or any particular country. What is your solution? You are against free trade, capitalism, money (or maybe even people) crossing national boundaries, fine. I could not care less if these communities did not have Western lifestyles. I do however see peace, education, health, community, and other enhancements to life as essential.

    So please enlighten me. How does one achieve this ina society?

  • I am not against cooperation, Vijai. We all should benefit from and share all our resources.

    I just don’t see the capitalist model you espouse is the one that’s going to bring happiness to us all.

    In fact, it’s failing, and more than miserably, with respect to its own citizens.

    So the question is, why would you want to adopt and valorize a system that’s obviously nothing but abject failure.

    And lest you disagree, yes, I do view it as an abject failure.

    I should think that India can do and is doing better, with or without America.
    So please, don’t pattern yourself after us. It’s a road to disaster.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    The three examples you give of small-government countries are chock-full of holes.

    Hong Kong is part of China and will lose its ‘special’ status in 2047. If you’ll recall, Hong Kong’s riches were built upon what the modern world would call the exploited labor of untold millions of coolies and opium addicts.

    Costa Rica is a small country that – IIRC – doesn’t even have a military…and all those taxes that would otherwise go to the military enables their government to do what they need to do for a lot lower cost.

    And much the same for the DR and I gotta go the wife just came home BYE!

  • Vijai

    I’m no ideologue. I have no special love for any political or economic system, but to achieve the essentials of life I mentioned above I think certain elements of capitalism are- as far as I can see- irreplacable. This involves the freedom to choose one’s avenues of investment within the laws of the land, to employ people at fair remuneration, to innovate so that you can sustain your business in an environment that has competing products and services.

    My dad worked for a “development bank” in India which was formed by a special charter of the Government in the 1960s to foster industrial growth. It required the bank to look for avenues of investment for uniform, balanced development rather than profit motive. And so it did. The bank helped many business to grow in an environment in which we had very lkittle foreign investment- the socialistic India of the 1950s through the 80s. Eventually the bank was saddled with what we called NPAs- non performing assets- meaning businesses which could not repay the debt. Almost all of this was written off by the bank due to the charter of the bank which did not allow it to draw any profits from it.

    You see, the way I see investment (within rules of fair play) is this: capital is invested into a business which employs a community of people. As they produce a good or service and this is sold, wealth is created. While the investor keeps his profit margin as a reward for such wealth creation, the government notices that the production and consumption as well as employment have increased and hencer increases the amount of money in the market, serving to increase national income in the future by increasing purchasing power for future production and consumption.

    This is a pretty inescapable economic cycle. In the old socialistic model the investment was limited because returns were limited. Besides most commodities lacked innovation and companies lacked the icentive to innovate. As a result we had 1940s model cars running on Indian roads in the 1980s- called ‘Ambassadors”- they can still be seen in India. Noone had any other choice. Were we better off with it? To me, it doesn’t make any difference whether you drive an Ambassador or a BMW. But the fact is that growth rates were low and the population rates were high due to high dependedence on farming which suffered from many ills of its own. As a result we all suffered from declining per capita income.

    Austerity rather than consumerism was prized in India and personally, I find this a good thing. Noone used to flaunt their wealth; people were modest. However, disease, infant mortality, lack of education, lack of ambition, corruption were all rampant.

    Today’s India cannot be more different. People flaunt their new wealth. It is disgusting to see the greed and pride that typifies the upwardly mobile in India. And yes, I have to whoeheartedly agree with you that this is an inevitable consequence of considering capitalism to be God.

    What capitalism does is give us a choice to manage our finances, nothing more. So when you save money in Walmart and use your savings to buy a home that you cannot afford at low interest rates meant to be offset by a future promise of capital gains, you are essentially being greedy.

    But capitalism also has a nasty habit- unlike the socialism that my dad’s employer practised- of letting people suffer consequences. Greed cannot be sustained, and therefore you had the housing bubble. When a correction like this happens, some of us go back to basics, others just trash capitalism.

    I can fully support your views in bringing stringent checks and balances into the system, abolilshing unfair wages, etc. But I would very much like to understand your views of an economic or political system that is fair and sustainable.

  • OK, Vijai. I hear you.

    I’ll respond tomorrow.

    Take care.

  • If slavery is such a positive, why not submit yourself and your family to benefit your ancestors, Dave?

  • You’re darn right that that my understanding of the capitalist system is superior to yours, Vijai. You see, I am not on the receiving but the giving end. I am the imperialist while you are the colonialist. And as a colonialist, Vijai, you’re a greatest disservice to your county women and men. None could he worst.

    You see, I’m well aware of the fact that we exploit you. Yet, you seem quite comfy with the fact and consider this a privilege. And why, because some of your class or class-status reap the benefits of Western exploitation? Don’t say now that you represent the views of all Indians, because if that were so, you would all be despicable. Gandhi for certain did not share such a rosy picture of Western Imperialism, and I will surely take his view of the Indian conscience, anytime, over yours.

    You see, the way I see you thus far as just another patsy, saying whatever you are saying simply because, and for no other reason, because it suits your interest.

    Well, fuck your interest, Vijai, and the interest of all you want to represent. What we’re dealing here is ideas -ideas of what’s right and wrong, not with what’s good for your or my country but with what’s good for humanity at large, human dignity, human respect, and all of the above.

    Yet, you talk of exploitation as a way of attaining prosperity, welfare, and happiness,

    Shame on you. You are a discredit to your countrymen. You’re nothing but a sellout a sellout to the highest bidder.

    You still haven’t answered my question – concerning your willingness to reduce human relations to biological/symbiotic relations.

    Don’t bother, because you know there is no ready-made answer. It’s not surprising, however, because the Hindu philosophy is rather noncommittal when it comes to morality. We are all supposed to eat shit, and like it – being one with the Universe, the exploiter and the exploited, in full harmony. Happy times.

    Well, we in the West don’t exactly buy it, Vijai. So don’t try to sell us a bill of goods.

  • Arch Conservative

    You might do well to differentiate capitalism to corporate cronyism which is what we have in America at the moment roger.

    And while I agree with you that we have devolved into a state of crass materialism you seem to have overlooked that capitalism has in fact helped to save or improve the lives of many. just think of all the life saving medicines and medical devices that have been spawned from the capitalist system. Can’t a person or a company be simultaneously motivated by both the profit motive and the desire to help others? Why must it be one or the other? Do you really expect everyone to walk around nude and barefoot singing kum bay yah Roger?

  • I don’t deny that, Archie. Think however of the pharmaceuticals that are currently in deep trouble for knowingly pushing anti-diabetic drugs which caused a great many heart failures. And that’s just a drop in a bucket.

    Anyway, I was only objecting to Vijai’s version of capitalism as necessarily based on exploitation. It’s that idea, of exploitation, that I found objectionable.

  • Clavos

    Careful you don’t fall off that high horse, Roger.

    You’ll bust your ass and all your brains will run out.

  • I may bruise my ass, but my brains will surely measure up to most.

  • I hope you understand, Clav, I was being provocative for a reason,

    So if I was riding a high horse, it was only part of the rodeo.

    Happy trails.

  • Can’t anyone play a dumb American anymore in the lang of gringos?

  • Vijai

    Roger: you really want to know my sacred cows don’t you? I’m a Christian. I do think the Hindu scriptures have a lot to say about the human condition which come pretty close to the Christian view at times, but truth is exclusive so I do not fully agree with them. But I call myself a Christian with no denominational preference. I acknowledge and respect the challenges to Christianity that other worldviews, including Hinduism, agnosticism, etc bring- but yes, my faith remains in Christianity. Having said that, I emphatically do not
    think that Christianity is equivalent to capitalism, democracy or for that matter socialism. If there are similarities they are skin deep and no more.

    The biological/moral symbiosis that you keep talking about was aphrase you came up with when Dave who mentioned that exploitation and wealth creation are in a symbiotic relationship. If you’d like to know my own views, please read my article and the comments. There is nothing more that I can say that will convince you.

    FYI, now that Dave has been posting responses to your questions on slavery, I can now say that I cannot agree with him on those views. Slavery is never the reason why a community prospers or has ever prospered.

    I do not claim to be a representative of Indians- after all there are a billion of us; and least of all of Gandhi who I admire as well, but who I’m aware I’m hardly qualified to equate myself with.

    Again and again you accuse me of “buying into” Western imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, etc. As I said I’m no ideologue. I clearly mentioned the process of economic growth in my posts. I also wanted to know how you’d envision the emancipation of a society. I still do not have the answer.

    Gandhi himself envisioned a domestic cooperative society as an alternative for a joint stock company or other private sector business entities, but he did not see any objection to this cooperative investing capital, employing people and competing in the marketplace as in any free market society.

    I just realized why this discussion has gone on so long without actually creating a single positive, creative solution from you or anyone else who supports you. You are here simply to protest and nothing else. Malcolm Muggeridge once said it is far easier to stand out there in the streets holding a placard of protest than actually do something trully morally righteous. The reason why I can debate without sounding so furious as you do is because I’m not an ideologue. I just cannot see- in terms of economics or logic- how a system based on socialism can work. If you’d care to explain rationally I’d love to listen, because believe me, I’d love to be able to embrace such a system without the rate race, greed and other evils of the laissez faire system.

    So— Forget everything I said, Lay off the hyperbole and personal accusations- although I’m sure your next step would be to slaughter my sacred cow- namely the Christian faith (after you found out you couldn’t do it by denigrating Hinduism and India)- But please enunciate for me how you imagine a economy works in creating a community whose wealth, the essentials of life can be sustainable and fairly distributed.

  • It’s been interesting watching you all chasing after Vijai’s sacred cows – it’s been a merry chase – only to discover that the cow wore a cross and you’d only be crucifying yet another cow on the altar of ideas.

    I notice that none of you has mentioned the kibbutz as an organizing mechanism – I wouldn’t expect it of Cindy – the kibbutz has the stink of “Zionism” and “exploiting the poor Arabs” (who usually benefited from the presence of a kibbutz, something they are only beginning to admit now). But Roger, you lived in this country for a while when the kibbutzniks were gods.

    Vijai, the kibbutz, properly managed, is probably the “community whose wealth, the essentials of life can be sustainable and fairly distributed”. Improperly managed, the kibbutz will become like that bank your father worked for that wrote off its non-performing assets. This happened to the majority of kibbutzim in this country, and they have de-collectivized themselves. But some have been properly managed and have become quite prosperous.

  • Ruvy,

    I couldn’t help but notice your lack of, any sort, of a response to Christopher Rose’s comment for you.

    It’s still there towards the bottom of my newest thread. Perhaps you just didn’t see it?

  • Vijai

    Hi Ruvy,

    Many thanks for your comments. I’m not intimately familiar with the kibbutz model, but I think Gandhi may have very well had the same idea in mind. Gandhi was very focused on traditional low-tech businesses in his co-op model; but later this was espoused by highly patriotic Indian businessmen, among them JRD Tata whose great granddad fouded the Tata group of companies. This is a $70 bn company, almost 90 percent of whose stock is owned by various charities, NGOs, etc in India. Many of their businesses- such as an airline, whish is incidentally now India’s national airline- were nationalized by the government a long time ago, but they had no bitterness about it.

    I’m not sure how this model would work in high-tech industries though. I take it that the kibbutz model too has been primarily agrarian. Israel is a very technologically advanced country- how does this work in those sectors?

    The bank my dad worked for once supported an Indian businessman who wanted to grow tulips in the Himalayan foothills. He had a joint venture with a large family in Israel which had succeeded in doing this in the middle of the desert. That business too wasn’t very suuccessful simply because of faulty distribution- the flowers tended to sweat when carried over long distances- and the journey from the Himalayas to Southern India is pretty long. Ultimately they turned out to be another NDA.

    I have no axe to grind against Roger or anyone else. I wish I could say that they were right- after all such incandescent righteous anger sounds pretty exciting. I wish that I could at least say that they were wrong! But we have simply been wasting our time.

  • Vijai

    In my previous post, I meant NPA (non performing asset) not NDA

  • Mark

    Vijai, I assume that the NPA’s came as no surprise to your father’s bank and had been planned for. Entrepreneurial failure and ‘wasted’ investment are hallmarks of capitalism. IIRC, about 40% of startups survive their first five years in the US.

  • Vijai,

    I have no axe to grind against Roger or anyone else. I wish I could say that they were right- after all such incandescent righteous anger sounds pretty exciting. I wish that I could at least say that they were wrong! But we have simply been wasting our time.

    No such discussion is truly a waste of time. You and Roger both learned something, and the two of you will use that knowledge to profit in the future. The time invested in sharpening your views was not wasted at all.

    I’m sure the basic kibbutz model can be adjusted to any kind of venture that needs a base (or a campus). In other words, a factory, a farm, a high tech operation like Microsoft, etc. etc. The key element in the success of such an operation is not trying to live beyond one’s means – which was the downfall of most of the kibbutzim in Israel. But one needs to be aware that 20/20 hindsight is a tricky thing, and not necessarily a good guide in future endeavours.

    I’m not sure how this model would work in high-tech industries though. I take it that the kibbutz model too has been primarily agrarian. Israel is a very technologically advanced country- how does this work in those sectors?

    In fact, thinking of campus based high tech operations, I suspect the kibbutz co-op model may be a better working model than the “start-up” model presently in use. The reason is that the salaries paid to keep the workers get translated into housing and food (obtained on a barter basis with a kibbutz that provides housing and food). This cuts down a lot of the money needed to start up the business.

    With the “start-up” model, you have the basic problem that the investors usually do not comprehend the nature of the information product being produced – or the incubation time it takes to show a real profit. In the mean-time, they blow up the bubble of their dreams, and then they get impatient, and sell out in a panic, or on a rumor. This is what basically occurred in the dot.com bust in 2000.

    Had these start-ups a decade ago had the secure seed money they needed, instead of the “money à go-go” provided by IPO’s and hot-to-profit investors, they’d still be around. The American economy would be a whole lot more stable for it, too.

    But crying over spilt milk, like guarding sacred cows, is a useless venture. And in addition, I’ve discovered that every time somebody gets the chance to “make it didn’t happen”, he fucks things up worse than when it did happen originally.

  • Vijai

    Hi Mark,

    The NPAs were not foreseen. The bank usually sanctioned loans for large industries, and hence the need for better fiscal responsibility. Clearly the capitalistic model is no role model for banks either- one only has to look at the US mortgage crisis to figure that out.

  • Vijai,

    If you want to see an example of a successful kibbutz, check out Yotvata. Also check out this site to see how Yotvata distributes its products in Israel, and this site about yotváta ba’ír to see how Kibbutz Yotvata keeps itself constantly in the eyes and stomachs of Israelis.

    Now, use your imagination, Vijai, and see how this model could be made to work for a high tech business.

  • Vijai,

    The site for marketing Yotvata products was found here. I must have messed up the HTML link in the last comment and missed the error when I previewed the comment. My bad.

  • Vijai

    Thanks again, Ruvy- Will certainly do some reading on this. I’m not qualified to comment on it at present.

  • For claiming to be no ideologue, Vijai, you sure sound like one. You approved of Dave’s characterization of exploitation as symbiotic relationship, even if you didn’t say it. You had gone along to defend Barionius’s rather dubious complain that the capitalist system doesn’t go far enough in exploiting native populations in so far as it leaves great many unexploited and behind.

    You speak of exploitation of wind, rivers, other natural resources in #19, and then you’re defending the extension of the term when it comes to relationships between people, even if they are economic.

    Well, the first thing you’ve got to learn Vijai is to become somewhat more sensitive to English language so as to not be throwing such terms carelessly.

    Yes, we can and do exploit our natural resources, but these are, shall we say, inanimate objects.

    Note however that even with respect to our use of animals, whether for food or work, we no longer use that term because it’s inappropriate. Here, we speak of cultivation, as of a flock. Indeed, even with respect to land we show greater respect when we say we cultivate it.

    Now, you are exporting this term to describe economic relationships between men. And that’s essentially what I’m objecting to. Remember Kant’s dictum , to treat human beings as ends, never as means.

    Get rid of the exploitation term from your vocabulary, and we can have beginnings of a conversation. Infuse moral component into economic relations between humans, and that’s another step in the right direction. Stop justifying economic relations and processes, whether historically –grounded or yet to evolve, in terms of practical benefits alone, again whether for most or just the few, because that’s a utilitarian type of calculus; the merits of any economic system can’t be discussed in terms of strict utility but from the vantage points of the morality accompanying it (or lack thereof) and overarching sense of justice. Lastly, rid yourself of the biological model which appears to inform your thinking and allows you to keep on justifying economic systems regardless of the accompanying morality. Even in the animal kingdom, exploitation relations do not exist: true, we have an ecological balance and food chain, and a lion or tiger will hunt their prey for sheer survival, but that’s just the kill; there’s no exploitation involved. Yet, you are willing to import it to human relationships in order to justify economic systems that in some respects work. An odd move indeed.

    So these aren’t ideological points, Vijai, but rather serious philosophical points which you fail to consider and which constitute the basis of my objections to your thus far rather unexamined view of the economic systems and processes. If you choose to call these objections as protests, fine with me. If you regard them as not being constructive, I’ll live with that to. But whatever you think, these are serious objections, and it would behoove you to consider them in order for this discussion to proceed in a non-ideological manner.

    I’m sorry if I can’t be more constructive.

  • Vijai,

    I should mention that the folks who produced this DVD, which is based on children’s tapes from the ’90s, produced by Michal Hazan and Nurit Hirsch, was the language tape I used to learn a lot of Hebrew in the States before we moved to live in Israel. It was filmed at Kibbutz Yotvata and neighboring locations, including Eilat. And, it mentioned Strauss products (with whom Kibbutz Yotvata partners), as well as Yotvata dairy products. In other words, every mechanism has been used to advertise Kibbutz Yotvata and its products, including this childrens’ tape of songs.

    For me it has borne much fruit; its songs about pigeons, helicopters, onions marching about like soldiers etc., taught me a great deal of Hebrew, and taught me to read a difficult syllabic alphabet as well.

    Nurit Hirsh has been a prolific songwriter, producing, amongst many others, this song as a background for an El ‘Al commercial almost 40 years ago – turning it into a hit nationwide and among the Jewish community world-wide.

  • Vijai

    For future reference, I have no love lost for exploitation of any kind. If I live in a world whichexploits my labor, chances are, to feed my family I will still go through it if only to earn my living. This does not excuse or condone the exploiters. Nor does it excuse me as someone who is participating in the system as the exploited. I’m sorry if it sounds paradoxical, but that is life. Take a look at my comment on Dubai to understand where I stand on this. Nothing on earth- no practical benefits- could excuse their behaviour.

    You are fixated on several things which are not true. I doubt our conversation can be meaningful. In the past several comments, you have patronized me by adopting an avuncular view of my English language, faith (which you supposed to be Hinduism and at one point Buddhism), calling my comments perfidious when the context of the article should have made it clear that it wasn’t what you implied, trying to figure out sacred cows where there were none, assuming the worst of the writer instead of engaing in meaningful dialogue, offering absolutely no rational explanation for what may be a humane and workable system that human beings can create in their communities…

    In my conversations on faith I can have mutually beneficial conversations with atheists, humanists (my dad is one), agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and people of every stripe when they are in the debate to learn and teach; but not to denigrate someone else.

    Your superciliious, patronizing behaviour generates far more heat than light. Indeed I have seen no lioght at all because, keen as you have been to expose my sacred cows, I still don’t know what you stand for except that you like to protest.

    As I said before you are neighter right nor wrong. If you were wrong it would at least meaning something meaningful hsa been said and there it rises to the dignity of an error. If either of us could learn anything from this exchange it is how to engage others in conversations. Besides that I consider this time wasted.

  • Vijai

    My post 77 was directed towards Roger’s post

  • This song was hashaná haba’á.

  • Vijai

    Hi Ruvy: this sounds very uncannily like Amul which is a similar coop in India, producing diary products. Its history is on Wikipedia. Certainly a workable model. Amul holds its own in India against Cadbury’s, Nestle and others.

  • Well, Vijai – sorry you’re objecting to my polemical style, but I felt it was needed to get your attention. Indeed, you need to be shaken up.

    Anyway, I presented you with a list of objections. But you’re obviously deciding not to deal with them but complain instead about my pointed words.

    It’s perfectly fine, Vijai. I certainly don’t expect any response from you until you’re good and ready. In fact, I’m glad you have no response to offer on such a short notice.

    So think about all I’ve said, take your sweet time, and come again whenever you’re ready.

    Perhaps some day the twain shall meet.

  • #34, Glenn,

    “You can’t impose your morality, Roger..”

    It’s not a matter of imposing (my?) morality on others. It’s a matter of imposing it on ourselves.

    How did you ever manage to get from point A to point B?

  • Vijai,

    I went both to the Wikipedia site, and to the Amul site on the web – and yes, it was remarkably similar to what one sees at Yotvata Dairies. Obviously, it is on a much larger scale – with 1.1 billion Indians, that is a large potential market for milk, yogurt and ice cream and pudding mixes. I’m not at all surprised that Amul can hold its own against foreign marketers. There is, among other things, a matter of national pride involved.

  • Cindy,

    Just tell me if you think I was being unfair.

  • I’ll be back in twenty. Will give you a chance to re-read the whole thread.

  • To add to my #75, there is a number of counterexamples as regards “exploitation” in the animal kingdom, and I submit they’re significant exceptions which prove the rule.

    Parasitic relationship between the parasite and the host.

    I suppose we might include here bacteria and viruses as well.

    It’s arguable that some of these relationships may be called symbiotic – the bacteria case in particular, in so far as it promotes digestion of food.

    To what extent is a parasite-host relationship “symbiotic,” as in the case of a tapeworm, for example, is subject to debate. It stands to reason that at least in this case, all the benefits accrue to the parasite, none to the host.

    A heck of a model on which to pattern the workings of human societies.

  • Irene Wagner

    Vijai, you are new enough to have missed some of Roger’s story, which he has shared openly on these threads, so I’m not revealing any thing he’d prefer not to make public. They are facts that you may not see when you read his articles; he’s made a lot of comments since he’s been here. I am not in email/phone/face-to-face correspondence with anyone here, so I don’t know anything of the man that he hasn’t shared publicly.

    Roger was temporarily at seminary (this had something to do with “an adventure” as I recall; whether he was seeking it there or seeking to take a break from it there, I do not recall.) He has had many love interests and has described himself as “quite the tiger.”

    The denomination with which Roger was associated was Seventh Day Adventists, as I recall.

    He believes religious faith contributes to the emotional health of many. Roger doesn’t appear to believe that the Scriptures are authoritative, although he is quite familiar with them. He does have faith in human beings, and seems to be particularly offended by the concept of original sin (variously called Human Nature, Man’s Selfishless, and The Reason Communism, Anarchism, and The New World Order Won’t Work.)

    At one point, I suggested Roger’s credo might be, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
    He didn’t disagree. Sacred Cow = Paul Bunyan’s pet bovine Babe.

    I agree with Ruvy’s earlier comment: discussion about important ideas is ALWAYS fruitful, as long as at least one of the participants is learning something or being otherwise exercised in a positive way. It’s my own opinion that these discussions are far more fruitful if people regard one another as respected colleagues with diametrically opposed viewpoints rather than adversaries.

    You Vijai, however, have only control over your own spirit, and when you have that, you have…Pr. 16:32.

    I’m glad you’re here, Vijai.

    As for me, I’m a Christian, too, with a good deal of respect for Catholic traditions, but not all of its theology. I am enjoying Lent (aka taking a break from BC.) So, smack me upside the head if you see me here again before Easter.

  • 34 – Glenn,

    …you CAN help to improve their station by doing business with them.

    You propose tossing our garbage over the walled prison ghetto to increase the rat population.

    How about this scenario? A 12 year old girl can work as a sex slave to feed her family, thanks to the wealth of the west, men will stream in to her third world country to indulge in her wares at rock bottom prices. Eventually her family will be able to improve their lifestyle. So, what do you say? Perhaps we can start a sex junket business which flies men to the Philippines to help out the poor there.

    The ivory coast exports most of the world’s chocolate. Children are enslaved to work growing and harvesting this chocolate. Buying more chocolate does not seem to have helped at all. Huge chocolate manufacturers have simply used their leverage to rape the population and leave them unable to subsist.

    There are ways that you can actually help people that do not require exploiting them, Glenn. The trend, for liberals, is to join with the far left to oppose exploitation of people. I am surprised to see you are not on board with that. I can get you some information on that, if you are interested.

    It’s not enough to be a big tipper (though that is important in this environment) as it creates a hierarchical relationship with other people. It puts some above others. It’s not a good solution.

  • Baronius

    Vijai (re: #77) – I love it when a newcomer sizes things up so quickly. I look forward to more of your articles.

  • 55 Yay, El-B

  • Wow, Irene.

    It’s a hell of a description of moi.

    Rather rough, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it inscribed as my epithet. I could live with it.

  • Anything you have no balls to say, Baronius, which agrees with your thinking but which, for some reason, whether for lack of courage or simply failure to articulate, you are going to laud.

    This has been quite a pattern, friend.

    And yes, I do second Irene and you. Vijai is a welcome new voice to re-energize our site. He does exude passion, and that’s always a good thing.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger and Cindy –

    Please understand that I am not condoning the exploitation! What I am saying is that a complete refusal to do any business whatsoever with them is counterproductive. For instance, if America stops buying any and all chocolate from the Ivory Coast, what do you think will happen to the people there? Happiness at being no longer ‘exploited’? Or desperation at no longer being able to feed their families? Answer me that!

    A better model is the ‘fair trade’ business model used by many coffee companies. Instead of outwardly penalizing those companies who do frankly exploit their workers, simply give your business to those who abide by the ‘fair trade’ standard. Hopefully, sooner or later those companies who don’t abide by the ‘fair trade’ standard will get a clue and join the club!

    This, btw, is why I almost never shop at Wal-Mart unless I have no choice i.e. my wife drags me there. This is also why I try to buy certified organic foods including eggs from free-range chicken farms. Hey – if y’all really want to question my liberal cred, then meet me at my yoga class tomorrow morning, okay?

    And Cindy – I find your sarcastic suggestion about child sex tourism rude and quite offensive. If you want to engage in sex tourism (with adults), btw, go to Thailand. After the American military bases left the Philippines in the wake of the Pinatubo eruption, much of the sex trade there stopped. There’s still quite a bit, but nothing like before. You could also check around in America for plenty of examples of the sex trade…and I don’t think we qualify as a third-world country (at least not unless the conservatives have their way with America).

    Furthermore, your sarcasm using the sex trade had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with my points on how and why people in the Third World choose their disparate paths to rise above their current station in life. If you want to continue this discussion, then let’s do so by discussing what comprises the vast majority of the ‘exploitation’ to which the article actually refers – sweatshops and mines and the like.

    And remember – my point that got everyone angry was that it’s better to be a part of the society even though one is being exploited…than to not be allowed to ever be truly a part of that society – for then one is open to all manner of exploitation with no hope of ever rising above one’s station i.e. India’s caste of untouchables.

  • Clavos

    Rather rough, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it inscribed as my epithet. I could live with it.


  • 64 I’ve discussed the ibbutzim with you briefly in the past, Ruvy.

    I never suggested anything was wrong with Jews in Palestine. And from the history I read, neither did the Arabs apparently, until the Zionists made their intentions toward the Arabs clear and began to marginalize them, exclude them and take over.

  • lost my ‘k’ there…my computer is possessed…

  • Glenn,

    That wasn’t sarcasm. I want to make this perfectly clear. That you are offended when I make it sex slavery–well, I am just as offended when you make it wage slavery.

    I think you are in danger of entirely missing my analogy with the sex slavery example. The point is, we don’t say something is necessary or good simply because it improves conditions.

    Throwing garbage over the wall will produce more rats for people to feed on. It’s not an acceptable choice. We can do something else.

    You talk about the world and what it is. But, you fail to realize you are making it what it is by supporting its ways. We make the world what it is. Try joining those of us who see something different.

  • 97 Glenn,

    And a point I also want to make clear to you, is my comprehension that sex slavery is consistent with and supported by the model of Capitalism.

    (okay…so the junket thing was sarcasm…but I was trying to make your point in a way that you could see how bad of an idea it is.)

  • Righto, Clavos. I knew I misspelled it.

  • In other words, Cindy, you were being provocative (to be distinguished from being a provocateur).

    Welcome to the club.

  • Furthermore, your sarcasm using the sex trade had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with my points on how and why people in the Third World choose their disparate paths to rise above their current station in life. If you want to continue this discussion, then let’s do so by discussing what comprises the vast majority of the ‘exploitation’ to which the article actually refers – sweatshops and mines and the like.

    Let’s talk about filling up the third world with toxic waste.

    The model is a bad model. We need to put consumerism in its place. We consume because we need to, it is nothing but a necessary function. It should not be a defining function. The whole model runs out of control taking out variously: human conscience, human bodies, and eventually humans as a species.

  • lol Hi Roger, (does the secret hand sign of the provocation club). I am not up to 75 yet.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy (and Roger) –

    I understand – and understood then – your point. But I suspect you missed my point, which was:

    f you want to continue this discussion, then let’s do so by discussing what comprises the vast majority of the ‘exploitation’ to which the article actually refers – sweatshops and mines and the like.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the big picture, people. There will always be those who engage in the sex trade. Always, always, ALWAYS…and this was almost true before money was invented as well. The system of capitalism has squat to do with the sex trade – for it’s existed at least to some extent in every nation, every culture, every political system, and every economic system.

    YES, we must discourage the sex trade! YES, we must hold pedophiles accountable, absolutely! But the more impoverished the people, the more the sex trade will flourish! Improve the lives of the people, build them up, help them rise above their present station in life, and the sex trade will diminish of its own accord.

    If you just decry the sex trade itself, you’re going after the symptom! Go after the problem instead, which is the poverty of the people.

    Okay? Got that?

    Let’s get back to discussing that which will achieve your goals and mine – giving those in poverty opportunities to rise above that poverty.

  • I’d like to import an exchange from another thread, because it’s pertinent to this discussion/

    104 – Glenn Contrarian
    Feb 24, 2010 at 10:33 am
    Roger –
    When you do reply, remember – this is the gist of my whole argument:

    I’m a pragmatist. I strongly believe in not sacrificing the good for the goal of the perfect, when the perfect is not practically attainable.

    106 – roger nowosielski
    Feb 24, 2010 at 10:48 am
    I buy your argument but only to a point. We’ve got to distinguish here between realm of action.

    And my position is that basic human morality never ought to be subject to any kind of compromise. There is no gradation here and no kind of incrementalism. Indeed, once you compromise your basic moral principles, you’re on a slippery slope. Well, we never should.

    As much as I approve of Dreadful’s “besieged city” analogy – remember the other thread – I happen to thing that even this analogy is subject to certain limits.

    What limits? Perhaps it’s for us to decide.

    107 – roger nowosielski
    Feb 24, 2010 at 10:50 am
    To add to my last post, I don’t regard moral stance as any kind of perfection, only as a working principle.

    Which isn’t to say that human morality is evolving, daily I should add, and in that respect it strives for perfection.

    But I don’t believe this little aside is any kind of contradiction.

  • Great point, Cindy:

    “We consume because we need to, it is nothing but a necessary function. It should not be a defining function” (#101).

  • Glenn,

    The system of capitalism has squat to do with the sex trade – for it’s existed at least to some extent in every nation, every culture, every political system, and every economic system.

    I think you may have missed my point. I didn’t say Capitalism originated sex slavery. I said that Capitalism is consistent with sex slavery and its promotion. And it has also made it one of the most productive industries–it’s the fastest growing industry, by some accounts, world-wide.

    You don’t think the porn filled internet has anything to do with Capitalism? You don’t think the model of Capitalism supports the continuing necessity of prostitution? You don’t think objectifying humans as things we use for various purposes feeds this whole mess?

    You think we can have a pure Capitalism? How do you make profits then?

  • “Let’s get back to discussing that which will achieve your goals and mine – giving those in poverty opportunities to rise above that poverty.”

    OK, Glenn, lets. But thus far you are suggesting that the capitalist system, for all its flaws, is the best means to the desired end. And it’s precisely because you’re so intent on reaching the desired end that you’re willing to overlook all evils and injustices that come part and parcel.

    Well, I don’t buy this view which reeks with instrumentalism. Let’s clean up our act, let’s think proactively and responsibly.

    Let’s bring prosperity to the world but not by trying to enrich ourselves at the cost to others. Let’s think of all humanity as sharing the same goal of wealth, happiness and prosperity. If the more advanced and industrialized nation are to share in this project, let it be done responsibly and with no mind to any kind of gain. Let’s act out of human impulses rather than self-defined national or economic interest. Let’s make a difference for the world at large, but let’s not be tainted by however slight suspicion of self-interest.

    You’ve got to start thinking outside the box, Glenn. The existing system is a failure for all the appearances of the good that it does. It’s soon to be replaced, anyway, judging by the growing discontent in America and worldwide. So why hold on, to say nothing of defending, the failed system while the future unfolds.

    Let’s all of us be bold, Glenn, you, me, and Cindy.

    Again, human morality cannot and never should be compromised, however much the present economic system benefits the few or the many. It’s simply unacceptable on moral grounds, not to mention the fact that it failed to deliver.

    Look at the abject poverty in Philippines, your future home, or other parts of the world. If that comes even close to justifying your saying that capitalism has been a triumph, I’ll kiss your behind.

  • Vijai

    Cindy, could you help explain a working model for humane economic, social, and political development? It’s okay even if your thoughts are still in the exploratory stage.

  • Vijai,

    Sure. I think that an Anarcho-syndicalist model would be appropriate for a technologically advanced culture.

    It fits well with the following requirements for any system, which I think are requisite for both individual and collective mental health – every person counts, no one is above or below anyone else.

    What good is that to a child slave sleeping in a locked room in Africa whether some old geezer in Miami lives long enough to watch a few more episodes of his favorite TV show? All of the bounty and medical advancements in the world are worthless to those who will never benefit from them. Only those privileged to benefit can talk about such advancements as if they actually mean something.

    Dave claims that slavery is okay by him as now there is a higher standard of living. (I know you disagreed with him. But his idea is common.) What is a higher standard of living? Some white people get to live long enough to take more away from some poor people? I guess standards are relative. Personally, being mindless consumers isn’t a very satisfying standard of living to begin with. Why bother increasing mere lifespan without increasing the value of life itself? Bush people have lived fine and valuable lives, much more worthwhile in their respect for people and animals and their world. Who needs modern medicine to extend time at the expense of sanity, ethics, and humanness.

  • In my second paragraph, somehow I deleted the first sentence, which asked how we arrive at the idea that ‘advancements’ are so important in the first place.

  • As if these advancements had some intrinsic worth–as if it’s okay that we could become monsters while grasping for such superficialities as more time for ourselves.

  • Vijai

    Cindy- As represented by Naom Chomsky and some others in my own country this involves both anarchy and a form of workers’ syndicate. Is a kibbutz (minus any negative images the phrase may conjure up) or a cooperative society a proto-syndicate as you would imagine?

    I hope you see where I’m going with this line of thinking. A political system like communism is imposed by force, and due to this coup of power the center of gravity shifts from the bourgeiosie to simply the Party. However in a true anarchy such power grab will mean that the nascent movement will implode by definition.

    The next best alternative I can see is to begin somewhere and spread the message as it evolves. The co-op in India I mentioned- Amul- is one such example. About 3 million producers of milk and diary products are members of the co-op and benefit from it. This co-op also thrives within an economic system that has powerful competitors, but due to the admirable and equitable administration of returns and operations, they have been consistently the top food brand in India for many years.

    Activists like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy in India are part of the anarchist movement in India. Their efforts have been primarily in protesting against the status quo- for instance against the massive human toll that large developmental projects sponsored by the government and huge land acquisition deals by both the State and Private actors have exacted from mostly villagers whose lives and livelihood have been tied to their land.

    The pitfalls of their movement have been that while they have succeeded in convincing the public about the dangers of these projects and the vested interests behind them, they have not been able to do as much for the people they wanted to save when the government or other party does acquire their land or build a dam and so on.

    On the other hand grassroots level NGOs have quietly gone about helping them rebuild, rehabilitate and imparting new skills to survive within a tough situation.

    What are your thoughts on this process?

  • More time for ourselves is a worthwhile goal, Cindy.

    It should be the object of all enlightened societies – to be liberated from the drudgery of work and have more time, instead, on our hands.

    Of course, I am unaware of the context you speak of, I don’t read every single comment religiously, as you well know, only what I consider the pertinent parts.

    There I go again, not extending my fellow bloggers their full and undivided attention.

    Pox on me!

  • my full and undivided attention . . .

  • John Wilson

    “The term demographic-economic paradox refers to the inverse relationship between economic progress and birth rates.”

    Why is that a paradox?

  • 113 – Are you sure you understood my point there, Roger? It wasn’t to disparage life extension or increasing free time at all.

  • ” . . . and due to this coup of power the center of gravity shifts from and due to this coup of power the center of gravity shifts from the bourgeiosie [sic] to simply the Party. to simply the Party.”

    Neither alternative is desirable. But certainly the bourgeoisie has long lost any credibility for providing the right kind of leadership.

    Perhaps Vijai might want to join our postmodernism discussion group, Cindy.

    You make the necessary overtures if you think it’s right.

  • I’m certain you haven’t. I’m simple aware of the context which precipitated your remark.

  • am simply unaware of the . . .

  • Vijai

    Hi JW: Traditionally in agrarian societies more children meant more farmhands and therefore more revenue for the family. But as agricultural income in developing nations became to decline and opportunities in manufacturing or services began to increase, more rural children meant more mouths to feed rathern than more people to increase revenue. As societies advanced and became less agrarian and more wealthy, they could afford to have more kids; because per-capita costs of raising kids are much less. However this has not been observed. As societies get wealthy, invariably (on a macro-economic level, not an individual level) it has been observed that the number of kids per family goes down. Those who can afford more kids do not have more kids. Those who cannot seem to have more- but as I said Governments are very persuasive in bringing that number down.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    If that comes even close to justifying your saying that capitalism has been a triumph, I’ll kiss your behind.

    Got your lipstick ready? I can’t afford to live there yet (tried to buy into it but couldn’t quite follow through), but check out these images of Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines. The pictures really don’t do it justice.

    And best of all, these condos – like the scores of nice housing developments that are springing up all over Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces – are being marketed not to foreigners, but to the growing Filipino middle class!

    Yeah, there’s a lot of places in the Philippines that are poor, even dirt poor – but if you’ll compare their farming province of Bulacan, it’s more modern than the present-day Mississippi Delta – and I should know!

    I’m sorry, Rog, but I think you’re greatly underestimating the people of what we normally call third-world countries.

  • Vijai

    Hi Irene (#87): Thanks for giving me more credit than I deserve. Proverbs 16:32 serves as a reminder to me than as affirmation. I need such reminders more than anything else.

  • 112 – Vijai,

    begin somewhere and spread the message as it evolves

    Yes, that sounds right, to me.

    A kibbutz could potentially be. But there is no reason to be limited to that particular model. There is a growing worker-run movement. You can look at Argentina’s worker-managed factory movement, for example. The far left in conjunction with the economically marginalized are pushing in this direction. You can see this is the Fair-Trade movement, and all kinds of organizations to work with people to become self-sustaining. For example, Madre which is aimed toward social justice and working with women to help them gain rights and become self-supporting with respect for dignity. Here is another type of organization that is modeled on working together with people to help them become self-sustaining–Kiva. I can make a loan with no interest to those who are trying to subsist as entrepreneurs. When that loan is repaid I can keep recycling that money into other loans helping more people with the same money.

    These sorts of organizations seem to be increasing. I also just noticed Borden, a huge US dairy business, is now advertising its farmer-owned status on it’s cheese. It seems to be in the zeitgeist–these ideas of self-management and dignity.

  • 118 – The context is in 109 Roger.

  • I was just adding to it with the other two comments.

  • I was just adding to it with the other two comments.

  • Vijai

    I like these examples. When you use a term like Far Left one gets a picture of revolutionaries thrusting bayonets into Presidents. That doesn’t seem to be what you mean. Do you do it intentionally?

  • Glenn,

    I don’t want to repost the pictures of the poverty in Philippines. You would really have no stomach seeing them again.

    So keep on reassuring yourself and all sundry how well we have done, but please forgive me I don’t join the bandwagon and cheer.

  • Vijai,

    I use the term ‘far left’ to designate those who are outside the model of capitalism. The term ‘left’ is used to mean ‘liberal’ in the US. I need a term to differentiate from that. I am open to other suggestions. 🙂

    I bet a bayonet would make a handy gardening tool. Being a pacifist I will test that out if I ever come across one. Some on, what I perceive as the far left are, of course, open to the bayonet method and some even think pacifists are silly (if you could believe such a thing!).

  • I find it interesting, Vijai, that you tend to couch your arguments in strictly pragmatic, practical and instrumental terms. Not to disparage this kind of thinking, but it definitely falls short of any conceptual analysis, which is to say analysis in terms of ideas. At any rate, whatever concepts or ideas you subscribe to, they seem to remain hidden, whether inadvertently or on purpose, or simply couched in terms of pragmatic analysis.

    I don’t know now whether it’s a peculiar trait of an Indian mind, whether assimilated to the West or not, or just your particular habit of mind. But let me refer you now to another fellow, also of Indian origins, who actually happens to display a tendency and turn of mind quite different from yours, Mr. Somik Raha, as per the following link.

    Now, I submit that when it comes to Somik, both of us can discuss the relevant issues in a productive way. And we have, in fact,

    Just to provide you with an example of Somik’s thinking, which I only found challenging and haven’t been able to deal with yet, let me refer to you an email he sent me, citing the following article.

    Now, Vijai. That’s what I call communication and the kind of communication I can respond to.

    Talk to me in terms of ideas instead of pragmatics, and you will have earned my undivided attention. In absence of that, however it’s all ideology to me and yes, ideology on your part, not mine.

    Take care.

  • (note to self: make sure the bayonet is not loaded before using it to dig things up)

  • Shoot, Cindy.

    I would love to see him pricked in the butt just to hear him scream.

    It just might bring common sense to the fellow and help him rid himself of his kowtowing to pseudo-imperalists such as you and me, and face of stark reality that his own butt is on the line.

    Always is and always will be.

    Long live the colonial attitude and the spirit of graciousness.

    At least you’ve got to give one thing to the British. When they colonized India, at least they were exploiting the country’s natural resources, to manufacture at home.

    But what our good old Vijai seems to suggest is that exploiting people is just as good, in fact, that it represents a kind of advancement of capitalism and imperialism triumphant.

    At last, it has finally progressed to include human and material resources as well.

    What a patriot!

  • Vijai

    I’ve sent him a request for the document. I’m not sure what you mean about my couching arguments- in fact they *are* the arguments themselves.

    I would have loved it if your provocation was aimed at my conscience, logic or paradoxes in my worldview. Unfortunately all your provocations seem to be aimed at my ego- I’m not sure how to respond to them constructively.

    The British *only* exploited the resources?? Seems like a history lesson is in order, or could it be a lesson in the English language? After all the meaning of the term exploitation hasn’t changed since we last broached it, has it?

  • It’s your ego that stands in the way of your clear thinking, Vijai, and that’s precisely why I am attacking it.

    And again, you are missing the vital point. Exploiting the country’s resources ain’t the same as exploiting its labor.

    In case you’re too obtuse to understand, the first pertains to inanimate objects, the second to human beings as inviolable agents.

    So no, we’re not back to English language by any stretch of the term, a subject matter with respect to which, I’m afraid, you are apparently deficient.

    I have and will continue to be consistent throughout this conversation as regards to proper application of the term “exploitation.” It is you, not I, who wants to have it both ways.

  • Vijai

    “It’s your ego that stands in the way”- You seem to know it all, Roger.

    British colonialization of India is off-topic and I do not want to dwell on it, but I would encourage you to read up on events such as ‘The Bengal Famine’, ‘Permanent Settlement’ and the import of Indian workers into South Africa, the Caribbean, Fiji and other places.

    Roger- you think you know me simply by reading an article or comments. I’m afraid you are a little too self-assured to learn anything new. You come across as if you have all the answers and when someone differs from your opinions, to you they are automatically perfidious, disingenuous, colonialist, egotistical, unskilled in the English language.

    And you want to be given the benefit of doubt of being a wise old provocateur who knows just the strings to pull to enable the truth to come out.

    How can I ever learn or teach anything with you? I don’t see how Somik does it- but if he does, I’m happy for you both. And yes, your comment about the bayonets- for all your screaming from the rooftops about human dignity, I think you are likely to be the first in line to use the bayonet against a dissenter. Am I being presumptuous? Perhaps, but I’m only following your example.

  • For your information, Vijai.

    The kibbutz is a voluntary institution. Applicants are screened for acceptability as a member by an absorption committee. The kibbutznik receives a small stipend, housing, food and clothing and is expected to work as assigned, or as agreed; he is free to leave when he chooses. If the kibbutz were to be centered around a hi-tech operation, one would expect some kind of covenants to be signed concerning intellectual property and the like upon acceptance as a member, that would come into play upon leaving. Similarly, if the kibbutz is centered about making a product, I expect that some kind of agreement not to work for a competitor for a period of time might come into play.

    The kibbutz is run by its members, through committees which the members elect; one of the prime committees is the work committee, which assigns work to the members.

    Finally, the kibbutz is engaged in private enterprise, and is not run by the government of Israel.

  • Vijai

    Ruvy, yes- I do see this working. We seem to be getting at something.

    I think the basic premise of what I mentioned in the article, of capital being infused into communities with the intent of helping them get productive does not contradict the kibbutz/co-op model.

    I understand it is private enterprise- as it should be. How about leadership or hierarchy? In a diary coop I can see that with so many basic producers, it is easier to achieve a form of equity. How about capital intensive high-tech work, such as a semi-conductor fabrication facility where different levels of skills are needed? In your experience has a kibbutz seen disagreements with regard to hierarchy?

  • Vijai.

    I don’t pretend to know you. I can only judge you by your comments on what is a public forum.

    As to my learning anything from you, I will postpone this challenge until I see you giving serious consideration to my objections and try to answer them.

    Meanwhile, you do come across as a presumptuous arse.

    And yes, your colonialist views are despicable and I despise them. See, I’m not mincing words.

    And for as long as you’re going to keep on defending the notion of “exploitation” as acceptable form of economic relations, yes, I am going to insist that you are ignorant and unskilled when it comes to English language.

  • Vijai


    ‘Nuff said. I’m done with this.

  • John Wilson

    #120 “As societies get wealthy, invariably (on a macro-economic level, not an individual level) it has been observed that the number of kids per family goes down.”

    Where’s the paradox?

  • The most sensible remark I’ve heard from you yet.

    Just stick to it and succumb to your lower impulse.

  • What’s your point, John?

  • Vijai

    JW: Could you elaborate?

    Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

    The term “paradox” comes from the notion that greater means would necessitate the production of more offspring as suggested by the influential Thomas Malthus.[2] Roughly speaking, nations or subpopulations with higher GDP per capita are observed to have fewer children, even though a richer population can support more children. Malthus held that in order to prevent widespread suffering, from famine for example, what he called “moral restraint” (which included abstinence) was required. The demographic-economic paradox suggests that reproductive restraint arises naturally as a consequence of economic progress

  • Cindy,

    You still haven’t responded to the question I put to you a while ago.

    Am I being unfair to Vijai – never mind now my argumentative style – or am I just being a hard ass?

    Do let me know what you think.

  • Vijai,

    How about capital intensive high-tech work, such as a semi-conductor fabrication facility where different levels of skills are needed? In your experience has a kibbutz seen disagreements with regard to hierarchy?

    This, I could not tell you. To my knowledge, one kibbutz runs a hotel, another, a skin cream company, and a third manufactures furniture. I asked you to use your imagination because I have never heard of a kibbutz run a computer firm or computer application firm. But, like Roibert Kennedy, I see and ask “why not?”.

    I could talk to some programmers and computer geeks I know, and ask them to imagine themselves in this kind of situation. That might take some time and I would have to get back to you in a couple of days. Please be patient with me.

  • You’ve got to give one thing to Vijai.

    He does believe in social engineering, and it’s a good thing.

    We need people who think about the future.

  • Vijai

    Hi Ruvy- if one company can make it work another can. I have no disagreements there. Mine was, as Roger would put it, a pragmatic question. I can assure you that it is not a pretext or subtext to anything. Most co-ops are run with some equitable distribution of returns in mind. In some fields however there is the need for “geniuses” working alongside others, leading to some inherently inequitable returns. I was wondering if this has been resolved in some way.

  • Now we are on to a sensible discussion.

    Perhaps we all ought to disengage ourselves of toxic terms.

  • Roger,

    Might I suggest to you that you will get nowhere quickly with Vijai. Obviously, you are not succeeding in selling whatever vacuum cleaner you have in your demo pack.

    You pushed him on his sacred cow, and if you’d had some sense, you might have gone to his blog-site about 50 comments ago. I did. His style of writing is his style of writing, and criticizing him the way you are will profit you nothing. Indeed, I suggest it has profited you nothing. You are the perfect example for the late Dale Carnegie to hold up as how not to “win friends and influence people”.

    And you are worse than a Jew nitpicking over a word in the Talmud or a penny for a dozen eggs. It takes some doing to get me to say that, Mr. Nowozielski.

  • Vijai,

    Most co-ops are run with some equitable distribution of returns in mind. In some fields however there is the need for “geniuses” working alongside others, leading to some inherently inequitable returns. I was wondering if this has been resolved in some way.

    It is precisely pragmatic questions like these that interest me – because it precisely these kinds of pragmatic questions that can break up a computer firm, just as they can break up a band. What does constitute a greater return when money has been removed from the situation? Does the resident genius get larger helpings of salad at breakfast?

  • Sorry for misspelling your name, Roger. It was not intentional….

  • Ruvy, you should know my style by now. And no, I’ve never been Dale Carnegie’s subscriber. Always, I hit and run.

    I still think that Vijai has great potential. But before he realized it, he’s got to get rid first of the baggage, his baggage. So excuse me for having to be blunt – that’s where I come in.

    I’m sorry if none of yous have any balls, but somebody’s to do it. And since none presented a challenge, let it be me.

  • No problem, Ruvy.

    I was just going to add, I am not here to be liked. I have to call it how I see it.

    And you’re no different, of that I’m certain.

  • Ruvy,

    Your presumed interest in what you have dubbed as “pragmatic questions” being the predominant ones is something to be examined/

    Don’t forget now that even the most practical advice that comes from the Talmud and all rabbinical writings are distillations of a principle.

    It’s the principle – the idea of a thing – that informs all we ought to do and not to do/

    It’s precisely in this respect that I find Vijai’s thinking and elaborate extrapolation singularly deficient.

    Consequently, I called him on this, nothing less and nothing more. Everything over and above, you’re free to blame on my in-your-face style. And of that, I plea guilty.

  • Vijai

    Roger, As you are so magnanimous in helping me realize my true potential, could you do this? I had resolved not to respond to you but I like your argument that behind every Rabbinical instruction there is a philosophy. And yes, behind my pragmatic suggestions there is a worldview- I was hoping that you may be able to grasp it from my article. But anyway… could you do this:

    Please list the querstions you want answered crisple and clearly without accusation, for instance ‘Do ends justify the means’, as in does a little exploitation justify the greater good, etc..

    I will do my best to answer them. I can’t help the kind of guy I am- this is the way I answer questions. I just cannot understand or respond to hysterical rants.

  • Vijai

    Ruvy- I will get back to you on your question

  • To tell the truth, Vijai, I haven’t read your article yet – at least not thoroughly.

    I will therefore. Meanwhile, let me applaud you for transcending beyond the personal, Both of us know that it’s not productive in the long run. And if I have been abrasive in my past communications – and I’m certain I have – please forgive me.

    The only excuse I have to offer, you’re a formidable opponent, not a flunkie.

    With the later, I could afford the maximum of latitude. With you, I could not. Which is the reason why I pressed you beyond the point of propriety perhaps. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge, I reckon.

    So let’s move on to bigger and greater things.

    I am game.

  • (pretends to be reading a newspaper)

    Ah, it’s alright now. Good. 🙂

  • Nu Roger? (See comments #154 & #156) A little diplomacy doesn’t hurt, does it?

    As to the Talmud. Don’t go there. The Talmud, all six Orders of it, is based upon phrases taken from the Torah, phrase after phrase, and each phrase is analyzed by a number of scholars commenting on them. This analysis, comprises the equivalents of opinions set down by judges of the Sanhedrin, because the scholars who set down these opinions were members of the Sanhedrin who had fled Jerusalem to Yavne in 70 C.E. Therefore, they are law. This is especially true for the Talmud Yerushalmí, which is what was comprised at Yavne and various places in the Land of Israel. After Hillel II was murdered by the Roman savages, the members of the Sanhedrin who could, fled to Babylon and reconvened there, compiling, over time, the Talmud Bavlí, which deals with coping with life in exile.

    ONLY AFTER the compilation of these two Talmuds, do you get learned commentaries that approach Jewish law with a philosophical bent.

    Finally, my interest in pragmatic questions reflects my own bent – pragmatic solutions keep enterprises going, they get budgets approved, etc., etc. Philosophical wrangling, by contrast, gets you nothing but discord. There is a basic principle in Jewish philosophy – ein qémaH, ein toráh no flour, no Torah. In other words, without sustenance, there is no learning. So, the first order of business is providing sustenance (according to the rules of the Torah, of course!), in order to further Torah study and understanding of G-d’s will.

  • Vijai

    Okay, Roger. I’ll wait for you to finish reading the article. I see that you are now subsribing to the ‘How to win Jews and influence Indians’ school of thought.

    Hey Ruvy: I’m not sure what would constitute extra returns for a resident genius- I’m just thinking that a genius may find it tough to remain in the kibbutz framework given that her skills are in constant demand.

  • Funny, Vijai

    But you’re definitely wrong on the first count, not with Ruvy as the prime specimen.

    As to the second, perhaps coming to shared understanding would be more accurate way of putting it.

    I’m not all that certain, besides, to what extent your thinking is representative of Indian thought. Is it?

  • Roger,

    to what extent your thinking is representative of Indian thought. Is it?

    Come on, Roger. There are 1.1 billion Indians living in India, plus untold millions living overseas, like Vijai. Dharma, the dominant faith in India, has at least six variants to it, two of which are atheistic in conception. In addition, it has two big spin-off religions, Jainism and Buddhism, which represent whole universes of philosophical thought in themselves. Then there are the Muslims (the largest number of Muslims in the world live in the countries that comprise India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – only after this, do you get Indonesia; Arabs are about 15% of the world Muslim population). I haven’t even mentioned the 70 odd million Christians who live in India either. With such a varied population, would expect any one person to be “representative” of Indian thought?

    Are you representative of Polish thought? Or of American thought?

  • Ruvy, read between the lines, won’t you?

  • Vijai

    Hi Roger:

    With a large popoulation like in India or China nothing is as it seems. Although I’m Christian most Indians are “cultural Hindus”. I was born, raised, educated in India, worked there, was married there and spent most of my life there before moving out and finally settling in the US. I’m at least partly representative of Indian thought.

    Besides, as Ruvy put it, Hinduism has many variants to it, some of which are pretty divergent from others. The atheistic strain he mentioned is one. Another fact is that although an apparently inclusivistic religion, there are sects within this worldview that adhere strictly to deities and are exclusive in their worship.

    I would add that Indian culture is changing and this has been very rapid in the past 20 years. But this is true for every country. You wouldn’t think of Ruvy as a type of Samuel, wearing an ephod and serving in the temple, would you?

    My faith didn’t originate in India, but it also highly contextualized to India.

  • Thank you both for the lecture, but I was only picking up on your earlier remark about Indian school of thought, Vijai.

    Actually, it’s way too early for me for serious conversation. I would have thought either of you would have a sense of humor enough to see through the satire, especially you, Vijai, since you originated it. Or perhaps you were dead-serious.


  • Vijai

    How to win wannabe-Indians and influence pretend-Indians

  • That’s more like it!

  • Baronius

    This entire thread is based on a misinterpretation. In an article about the relationship between population growth and economic growth, Vijai made some observations about how wealth spreads in a society. He noted something that impressed me: that the exploited are often more fortunate than the abandoned. This isn’t an endorsement of exploitation, nor is it the core of the article. Roger and Cindy are particularly concerned about exploitation, and a misunderstanding developed.

    Healthy economic development brings the most benefit to the most people. The infusion of wealth into a desperately poor area can take place through only a very few channels. Looking at third-world countries, the lifespan goes up and the rate of infant death goes down as wealth increases, and those are good things. We should at least be able to agree on that, and maybe have a new starting point.

  • Quite right, Baronius.

    But then again, the statement to the effect that “perhaps the evil of any economic system is not so much that it exploits the people it employs, but that it leaves out the people it deems unnecessary” isn’t exactly immune from conflicting interpretations. I can’t argue with its rhetorical impact, but rhetorics aside, it could definitely be cleaned-up.

    I am aware, of course, of the context Vijai provided, in particular the statement immediately proceeding it. But think, you didn’t help matters much either by taking that statement out of context and running with it.

    Naturally, the notion of exploitation as the indispensable element of capitalist expansion and third-world development – whether a justifiable thesis or not – became the point of focus.

    The rest is history.

  • Clavos

    Remarkable how Roger can see his way clear to pontificating endlessly (and patronizing) an author without having even read the man’s article.

    Even more remarkable how, when called to task for his uninformed, sloppy thinking, he resorts to ad hominem attacks to defend himself

  • Provocative, yes. Uninformed and sloppy, that’s for you to say and for me dismiss.

    As to pontificating and patronizing and condescending, I plea guilty as charged.

  • Just admit it, Clavos, buddy. You’re not as versatile as I am and it bugs you.

    You just can’t walk a tightrope, can you?

  • Clavos

    Just admit it, Clavos, buddy. You’re not as versatile as I am and it bugs you.

    I’m not, and have no desire to be, your buddy, Roger.

    Regarding your “versatility” vis-a-vis mine: I guess you’re right Roger, I’ve never found myself in a position in which I needed to acquire a CDL. Rather I’ve (very conventionally on my part, I admit) simply kept myself gainfully and fruitfully employed since I was 16.

    So no, I’m not as “versatile” as you. I can’t drive a truck…

  • John Wilson

    Well then, Malthus must be wrong. Or irrelevant. He simply doesn’t apply to human societies. Maybe his theory works for ants or bees. Is there some a priori reason for thinking Malthus is right?

  • Vijai

    JW, please explain your questions. Noone is defending Mulathus or anyone else; and the article is about something entirely different, but if you feel strongly about Malthus, why don’t you clarify it with some more information? The demographic economic paradox is a technical term that is commonly in use.

  • Vijai

    Roger seems to be in good company as far as reading the article is concerned. Maybe I should write shorter ones.

  • That’s a rather low blow, Clavos, I’d say, not because I take it as such – as a matter of fact, I’m proud of the fact, CDL license and all that – but because you intended it to be so.

    You’re kind of showing your hand, aren’t you?

    And just in case you didn’t get it, the buddy reference was just a vernacular. No overture of any kind was intended.

  • STM

    Clav writes: “So no, I’m not as “versatile” as you. I can’t drive a truck …”

    Lol. Classic stuff.

    G’day Vijai. Interesting article. If there are people commenting on it here who haven’t read it in its entirety, that’s only because their attention spans prevent them from paying more than 20 seconds’ attention to any views but their own 🙂

    Now, on to important stuff: How do you get to watch the cricket in the US, BTW. Do they show it on cable over there now??

    Sachin Tendulkar has just smashed 200 in a limited-overs match against the Jaapies in the ODI in Gwalior, if you didn’t know – the first male player to do so.

    I hope I’m not being presumptuous
    in regard to cricket here, as I have only met one Indian who didn’t like it and he was actually a Fijian who thought lying down in the shade was infinitely better than standing around in the sun.

    I also believe in change through sport … an abstract concept, perhaps, but a goodie.

  • Clavos

    That’s a rather low blow, Clavos…You’re kind of showing your hand, aren’t you?

    Of course I am, Roger. I’m an open book — no dissimulation here.

    And just in case you didn’t get it, the buddy reference was just a vernacular.

    Oh, I got it alright. I didn’t care for your presumption…

  • That wasn’t even a presumption, Clavos.
    To tell the truth, it was a dig, and you knew it, and you didn’t like it.

    Too bad.

  • Vijai

    Hi STM, you can get in on ESPN, though it is usually a premium subscription, not the regular channel. I haven’t got it, though many friends have. If it was presumption on your part, you presumed well! I grew up p[laying cricket and played a disastrous 2 seasons at a local cricket club in the US, but it hasn’t cured me of the habit.

    Good to hear from you. Where are you from? Yup, heard about Sachin’s record from Facebook friends first, then the news, and you!

  • STM

    Vijai: “Where are you from?”

    That sunbaked island continent to the south and east of India … the other arch-rivals in green and gold 🙂

    Glad you can get to to watch it mate! One of the things I found a bit difficult with regard to being in the US was that I couldn’t watch my favourite sports – cricket and rugby – on TV. Baseball’s not nearly half the fun of cricket, and beside, I don’t understand it.

    I chose to live in Oz instead, despite being offered a job in America, because the lifestyle is better and the opportunities are much the same.

    It’s a bit more laidback than America, too, which is probably why most Aussies prefer home to anywhere else.

    Cheers. Keep contributing to BC. It’s good fun.

  • Clavos

    To tell the truth, it was a dig, and you knew it, and you didn’t like it.

    Don’t flatter yourself, Roger.

  • STM

    Mate, I take it Rog ain’t on your Chrissie card list.

  • Well, tell me then how you like it and I might oblige.

    PS: You can always email me if it’s too embarrassing to say it in public.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    STM –

    Cricket – probably the single biggest reason that those from the Commonwealth do better in school than Americans. Why? Because it’s so doggone complicated that I still haven’t figured it out!

    C++? No problem! Calculus? Sorta-kinda, but I still passed! Running a steam power plant? No problem!

    Cricket? Um…just wondering, do you have remedial cricket courses there for those just arrived from America?

  • Actually, a very sensible article, Wayfarer.

    Sorry for having given you such a hard time. Thank Mr. Baronius for pulling a sentence out of context, for it was that I was mainly responding to. See, Baronius has a propensity for picking out what suits his soul, omitting parts he’s somewhat uncomfortable with. I should have known better and overlooked his one-sided iteration. It’s my mistake I didn’t.

    (By way of explanation, I’m usually very selective about what I read – simply a matter of allocating one’s resources – but your article was not effort wasted.)

    I like your ending in particular:

    “The direction of capital into future opportunities is the spirit of free enterprise, but it takes visionaries to initiate this into populations deemed the refuse of the earth. Perhaps the failing of capitalism is that it has failed to recognize the ability of people to emancipate themselves and therefore stayed its hand in investing into their future.”

    Whether I believe in “the spirit of free enterprise” is neither here nor there. Perhaps under ideal conditions I might – and I stress the word “ideal” because it takes special people to make something special and worthwhile what in the hands of most becomes corrupt and degenerates into a scourge.

    But if your point is that capitalism has failed, and is failing, for not looking beyond itself, for not being the engine of spreading the wealth and emancipation to all peoples and nations (so as to include even “the refuse”), if your appeal is for vision and visionaries, for the possibility of the system recapturing its spirit and turn itself from its evil and self-serving ways, then I am in total agreement with you.

  • Vijai

    “…total agreement with you. ” Indeed. I thought might agree- a good lesson for us both.

  • Vijai


    The rules get complicated when you start playing but the basic idea is to hit the ball and accumuate runs, except you run between 2 bases and not around 4. There are rules for pitching (bowling), covering the base (wicket) with your body so as not to get out, etc. But the rules become clearer once you start playing or watching.

    It’s not as complicated a football (gridiron) is- nowadays there are simpler versions of the game which are less cluttered with tules and more attuned to the fullcontact-type sports, thanks mainly to STM’S countrymen who believe that if a pitcher (bowler) cannot get the batsman out, the next best thing is to take him out by well aimed fast balls on his certain body parts. When these balls come at 100 mph as said countrymen are wont to do, the batsman needs to defend not only his wicket but his life.

    Hope this clarifies.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Vijai –

    It’s clear as mud!

    It’s like I said – there’s some kind of mental block for Americans to understand this precursor to our much-beloved national game.

    There are a handful of things that I’m determined to understand before I die. One’s calculus. Another’s stocks and options. The third – and most incomprehensible – is cricket. Wish me luck!

  • STM

    Nah, simple game … Vijair is absolutely spot on Glenn.

    It’s just about two teams, one using the bat and one using the ball and fielding, until it’s their turn to have a bat.

    An accumulation of runs, running between two bases (wickets), or hitting them beyound the boundary (fair over the boundary, six runs, over the boundary along the ground, four runs).

    And as Vijair says, hurling a small, hard, wooden ball at 100mph at a batsman.

    That started happening in the 1930s and we’ve never looked back. It certainly ups the ante on the excitement factor – and separates the men from the boys.

    That’s the basics … the nuances are a bit more complicated, but armed with the knowledge above, a Yank could watch it and understand it (one American bloke we had here said he was going to the cricket, and asked what he should take. Some wag suggested: “A book, mate”.)

    We love our oval-ball full contact sports down here (no pads!) but cricket is still the national game. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that everything in India and Australia is kind of weighed up against cricket and its importance to life, love and meaning of the universe. I kid you not – the most important job in Australia is not that of Prime Minister but captain of the Australian cricket team.

    On the score of unflinching batsmen with balls of steel facing down rock-hard 100mph missiles, it’s possibly why Aussies like Indians … the bastards can really bat, and they don’t take a backward step.

    The aforementioned Sachin Tendulkar being a classic example, although he’s certainly not alone, eith now or historically.

    And now they can bowl too …

  • STM

    Sorry Vijai, slip of the keyboard on the name.