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Practicing Democracy and Capitalism
Vasu Reddy from Chicago
Communications, transportation and political reforms are the keys to rapid economic progress of any country. When there is rapid economic progress, markets and countries struggle with ever changing needs of the population. Balancing righteousness and economics are mighty challenges that are always in concert with developing nations. The very fact is that we call the nations developing is comparing them to the nations already generating greater per capita per person than the so-called developing nations. The developed nations also practice habits that are typically looked as progressive and individualistic, that are afforded in democracies.
India, China, Brazil, Mexico and perhaps Russia are the major nations that fall into this category. Since the 1990s these countries have been growing their GDP (gross domestic product) at a faster rate than the developed nations such as USA, Japan and Western Europe. Simply meaning if USA is growing its GDP at let us say 2% on an annual basis, India is growing it 6%, there by the GDP of India is expanding more then that of USA from a fixed point of measurement. These are numbers are meaningful using the example of USA is already $30,000 annual per capita and India at $500, then India growing at 6% over a half a century and assuming USA continues to grow at 2%, at some point in a couple of generations the buying power of individuals will begin to become less disproportionate. It is likely that the developing countries can grow much more than 10% a year by deploying infrastructure to meet the global demands. India has done so with the IT industry and support industry. In less than a generation, the entire city culture of India has changed to support services industry. The support services industry needs are very different than that of manufacturing industry. For example to make a single model of a car will require hundreds of millions of dollars with continued upgrades to machines, and will require land, power and water along with specialized skills with people. For supporting a call center for a major MNC, a developing country needs very little investment to immediately start supporting a client tens of thousands of miles away. It is not as simple as I make it sound, but there is a definite advantage to provide services at a cheaper price, and have a very small investment with a few days to start-up, verses millions in investment, need for specialized skills and long time to start manufacturing production. Thus developing countries should find niche and cost effective scenarios to meet the needs of global markets, thereby driving their GDP growth faster than the developed nations.
Lately there are a lot of articles about the changing habits of people in India’s cities, and how the changes are termed as modern and western. What typically happens with the rapid changes to the cities (it can be anywhere in the world at anytime in history past and present) will be creation of individual wealth, which allows for individual freedom. Imagine the life of a 22 to 28 year old living with family and works in a small town (may be don’t work)? They will have little privacy or ability to do things that are described as so called western. If the same person moves to a big city and finds employment with one of the fast growing enterprises who cater to the MNC, the individual outside of work will begin to choose activities that of interest and affordable. These habits are neither western nor modern they are simply individual choices. Critiquing the changes to lifestyles in big cities of India is simply critiquing the rapid growth in higher wages with globalization, and services industry using emerging countries as support infrastructure.
Trade brings new people into societies that often bring their own influences into the local environment. From the time of Marco Polo to now (perhaps before the time of Marco Polo) every instance a new market opens its doors for outsiders; the outsiders bring not just commercial opportunities, but also their lifestyle influences. India with its long history of trade and commerce, its many invasions from the west and its long history of civilization is an evolving enterprise that is coping with the long standing traditions, while trying to cope with the rapid expansion of the support services industry. While the country welcomes investors, MNC, offshore services, software industry and showcases the educational talent available for hire, its embedded traditional outlook looks at the rapid changes to city life with concern.
When money is available people find ways to spend it on so called western habits. Capitalistic societies pay people what they are worth, who in turn will spend their money by which the economy generates more jobs and opportunity. By completely keeping money in the closet it does not circulate or earn interest or be available for reinvestment. As a farmer’s kid I think most of India equates money to be saved as we save grain for future consumption and planting new corps. The economics of a capitalistic society requires spenders along with makers of money to grow rapidly, and for creation of new opportunities and jobs.
People adapt to various habits due to necessity. The Indians work all night to support the work force in USA. I recently got a call from Pitney Bowes who sells stamp machines and the customer representative wanted to speak to me in Telugu. My immediate reaction was “wow” but no I am OK with English, and enquired into the operations and how they function despite despising the marketing call. I was curious on the dynamics of finding someone so far away who wanted to sell me something I did not need, but use the tactic of speaking to me in my own language forgetting that that my last name was no indication of if I spoke the language or would prefer to speak in it to a cold call. Just think about the amount of intelligence they deploy in calling people to a specific telephone number and making you feel that they know you well enough to want to converse in your mother tongue. This is not Indian design, as we would probably not call, and if we called would speak in English. The US based MNC using a call center in Madras is making its people work all night in India so they can call us in our work times, and provides the intelligence based on the last name of an individual and market products that are made in USA. In return for working all night the people get better wages and benefits, work in nice conditions as the MNC will make sure that the locals are treated fairly (I can’t define what really fair working conditions are), and provides them with intelligence and equipment to make cold calls. Just this itself is a lifestyle change. Late night work where men and women are doing things to meet their MNC needs, drinking tea or smoking to be awake, pub culture to eliminate the boredom of living alone, living in big cities and apartments and simply being alone are all opportunities for forming new habits.
Long-term practices of men should do this and women should do that seem to continue to be acceptable to the society, where are dress sense (don’t ask me what it should, as you wear what suits you), drinking, smoking, going out and men and women getting together are all frowned up on as western habits. Please don’t think this column is an endorsement for anything, except free choice. How could you not be influenced by others behavior if you embrace the wealth factor that comes with capital societies and democracy? What would you do with boredom? How would you spend your free time? Many questions which are typical to newly mobile workers.
Democracy allows India to choose its business partners, friends and leaders. A free democracy will flourish when the society will allow itself to learn from the opportunity of lessons of others. Capitalism (commercialism) is natural in democracies, as people form within the country will tend to start to choose their work, their lifestyle, and their behavior. In a global economy the influence of the other nations we do business with will certainly influence the habits of the involved work force and their environment. Did we not adapt to speaking English, when Western Europe continues to speak multiple languages and did not adopt a common language despite the common currency? For us to critique our own habits good or bad instead of learning from them is ironic. Why not let people choose what they do with their time and money. Let them learn from their own experiences. India (and other developing countries) might just be experiencing the early 1900s USA experienced with the influence of new cultures brought into the country with immigrants. With the Internet we don’t need to wait for massive immigration, just turn the machine on and we can choose what to do with it besides work on it. Let the process of individual choices be democratic and let the society accept these choices, as long as the individuals are accountable for their choices and can pay for them. When support services employees are working all night, they can’t be drinking in pubs all night long, perhaps just in the weekends. What else they got to do in a new and big city except spend their hard earned money?
The critics who complain about changing behavior of its people should examine the influence of free choices and influences of wealth creation in practicing democracies. Freedom of choice and individual lifestyle is what makes progressive societies that adapt to the overall needs of its people. Thousands of people leave the security of their villages or towns, and move into strange cities, learn the artificial slang of MNC, quickly get trained with the so called intelligence and start to earn above average wages. Many of them support their folks and struggle to live in the new environments. If they choose to adapt to or experiment with lifestyles that are foreign to them, then let them learn to live with what they want to with their money, time and disposition. Many of us who left India experienced the same and we continue to experience the same.
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