Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Folly of Comparative Analysis

Rajjev Srinivasan, I read your “India can be creator of the future” article on Rediff ( published on March 23, 2005 and I have following comments.

- You like being blunt so I will start with the first comment – You are racial. There is no other way to interpret your categorization of America as “White Americans”. Obviously you have no clue whatsoever of how the demography is shaping in America, how levers of power are getting spread across multiple sections of society and how likely the politics is going to shape away from traditional categorization.

- You are still caught in the ivory tower, armchair, lofty, warmonger type of worldview. World is more integrated, forces of Globalization are changing everything in unprecedented way, old categories of sovereign states with all the trappings of the tradition power are under attack, new alignments are coming up, new institutions are getting formed and states are realizing the limits of sovereignty – including USA and China. Obviously you are intelligent, but when will you stop such fascist worldview? And by the way, if your objective is being rational so as to come up with an abstract concept framework in order to understand world happenings and further predict future happenings, just do introspection to understand how inadequate such highly partisan, one sided, narrow minded and obstinate your conceptual framework is. The framework where you are obsessed with which nation states control the world affairs. The problem with this formulation is it is too simplistic when nation state identity and it’s eminent domain power is getting constrained in many different ways.

- Why are you so dated to talk about AT&T? I mean people keep on making the so called wise crack comment to indicate that many assign higher market cap to Yahoo than GM and how wrong it is. It is not wrong but reflective of reality. Common on, GM is almost bankrupt (read it’s last quarter); it no longer represents America’s strength. The days of what is good for GM is good for America (I think 1953 or 1956, some time around Eisenhower time; you are history fact junkie; you can find that) are long back gone. GM stopped mattering to America way back in 1980s. AT&T stopped mattering to American Economy in 1990s. Just keep forgetting about Apple, Yahoo, Google, Juniper, Genentech, Adobee, Autodesk, IAC and so many new and upcoming companies. And then there are future companies like Scaled Composites. Well, I guess as long as smart people like you are not finding the new strength spots in American Economy; you will be stuck in this 5th grade game of who is powerful and who is rich. I mean, Rajeev really it is all childish and useless analysis to read all these geopolitical events through the kind of lenses you are using.

- About While America – which is the fastest growing demographic group in America? Hispanics. Which are tomorrow’s battle ground states in the perennial war of Red and Blue States? Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico; all Hispanic states. Muslims in Ohio did not go with Bush. Bush Administration rejects Modi’s visa and attempts to tone down anti-Muslim image in many different ways. Why are there so many Hispanic appointments in the current Administration? Senator Mel Martinez (Republican), the first Cuban-American Senator gives the first Spanish Speech on the Senate Floor. Rajeev, which world do you live in? Open your eyes. America has it’s problems and granted that it’s Democracy needs to expand and progress further (for example, election laws). But remember that it is one of the most vibrant Democracy on this planet. It is alive and kicking and it is taking all people forward with earlier White Americans. Not for nothing representatives like Bobby Jindal can make a splash in Republican Party or Barak Obama gets to Senate. Rajeev, stop being racial. In the vein of Barbara Boxer, I would say looks like your loyalty towards your screwed up ideology is stronger than your loyalty towards Truth.

- It is foolish to measure America’s strength in terms of the fleet of air craft carriers. Yes, they did add state of the art attack submarine named Carter and state of the art aircraft carrier named Regan recently; but they are canceling many old Cold War type projects too. Rumsfeld may be controversial, but if you are serious student of American War Machine, watch which projects he is funding and which he is canceling. Trying to prepare the machine for the war of 21st century and not the old Cold War. There is another smart man – Senator McCain who is trying to stir American War machine in the right direction.

- In the end if you indeed insist in trying to quantify America’s strength and weakness; measure the strength in terms how many Nobel Prizes Americans win every year. How many Field Medals are there for American Mathematicians. How many patents are filed every year. How many new companies get formed (companies sprouting and dying – including AT&T – is the normal process). Whether America addressed the 2000 stock market problems by Sarbanes Oxley and other SEC reforms or not. Compare that with reforms in Indian Capital Markets when UTI scandal happened and just imagine how transparent Chinese Capital Markets are. Further, where does the VC money go in USA and so on. The day you will see less and less number of American Physicists and Economists getting Nobel Prize; you will know America is weaker compared to other nations. Not for nothing National Science Foundation complains to the Congress that large number of papers in Physical Review and Physical Review Letters are coming from Chinese Academicians.

The larger point is first of all this exercise of trying to measure “power” of Nations is lamentable, regressive and backward looking with no benefits. Needless to say the exercise of how India would do that is useless. There are so many things Indians are doing right and great (like trying to throw away the sectarian politics of RSS and BJP.) And secondly, if you really insist on such Comparative Analysis; try using correct yardsticks, not how many war ships and racial demography.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
March 23, 2005.


S 'naani' J said...

Nice comments Umesh. But dont you think you are contradicting yourself by living in a pink-tinted glasses American world of your own?

I do not necessarily agree with Rajesh (as he is quite very narrow-minded) but by singing praises of USA and your (perhaps) keen observation of American politics, you are doing the same mistake.

Yes, USA has lots of nobel prize winners and great technology but that is to be expected when "the 6% of worlds population consume 50% of the worlds resources". When resources abound, so do inspiring minds goes the saying.
But you should probably think about the humanitarian cost involved in maintaining this disproportionate ratio. And what exactly is the technology achieving? All I see is the making of weapons and patenting medical breakthroughs. All this technology and intervention of USA in any form has not led to a decrease in health-related deaths and human rights abuses. Rather, it is the contrary.

I am not being conspirationalist like Chomsky and maybe I am wrong as I am not in USA and you probably have to ask yourself of what gives you the right to make comments on an Indian viewpoint (no matter how jingoistic it might seem to you) when you are not living in India or have never seen the state of slums in Mumbai or the state of a family where the farmer committed suicide.

Denying Visa to Modi is quite a strategic move. The only other way to make a statement of this sort (to pacigy Muslims) is to give Modi the Visa in the hope that the American populace would protest this decision or have a street rally of some sort. But we all know that would not have happened since no one in USA (or UK) really cares of what happened in Gujarat. By denying a Visa, USA managed to raise a hue and cry in international press (mostly by Indians). Quite a smart move by your USA mate.

Umesh Patil said...

Thanks Srikant for you comments. Here is my response:

- Yes, the issue of where American achievements in Science and Technology are applied is indeed important and I am on your side when you expect it to be critically examined. The point is, it is silly to ignore all these aspects when you want to evaluate the positive capacities of any society. From long time since we always try to evaluate societies in terms of Knowledge, libraries, languages and books. We need to use such matrix to see where any society is declining or progressing. A war ship is a too narrow measure.

- About the resources. I think we need to be very carefully in continuing this old song of America hogging the resources and it costs everyone. Can we say that in last one year all the marginal crude oil demand is from China and India and that is raising the price from $25 to $55+? All modern societies are after this kind of living standard (I am not for it and I am not justifying it) and so just chiding America for that is missing the point. It is the whole global way and style of living.

- You also said it is not surprise that producing so many scientific break throughs when so many resources are consumed by America. I do not agree with that. Scientific and Knowledge break throughs are not simply dictated by money. Look at Britain, you still have world-class universities like Cambridge and Oxford still competing successfully in this hyper competitive world. Nature, one of the foremost journals in Science, is still British. Look at the Advanced Institute for Mathematics in France. If you count, France has way too many Mathematicians and Field Medallists compared to their population and resources. Despite all the collapse in Russia, they are still strong in Physics, Mathematics and some part of Engineering. There are fields in Computer Science (Mathematical Logic, Cryptography, etc.) where the dominance of Polish, other East Europeans and Israel is visible. So Knowledge achievements and resources consumed – these are not directly related. Knowledge creation is lot linked to Culture, Social Institutions and then in part about money.

- I am not interested in praising USA only. But I do want to point the real strengths of this society. It is really foolish to concentrate on 12 aircraft carriers and $400 Billion annual Defense outlay only. There is much to that society for its strength than these aspects. That does not mean I disown the negative effects of this policy or support the Cowboy Policy of Bush Administration. Trying to reduce everything wrong in this world to American Defense and Foreign Policy is indeed inadequate. Look at the larger picture. By the way, when you want to know the other side of the moon – what is negative in American Society and where the real problems are; there are many articles on my blog ( and I can add many to that. It is counter productive when intellectuals try to take inappropriate highlights of American society and try to imitate that. We should be smart enough to know what is good in America and what is bad in America and I want smart Indians to talk about these useful things not the glitter of America.

- Finally, about where do I stay and my right to comment about India. If you think little bit, you will realize that where I stay or do living is irrelevant in many respects. If we were to comment only about where we are living I guess almost half of Indian newspapers will have to be empty! I mean look at how much Indians are obsessed with USA and rest of the world! I think Rajeev Srinivasan cannot even sleep unless he uses some expletive for USA. But let us leave this rhetorical point. It is the essence what I want to convey – today’s world is lot more integrated and global. So it affects what happens in India to us in USA and not the other way only. When outsourcing takes jobs to India and China; it impacts Americans. So they are bound to think about what happens in India. When Dollar collapses, Indian SW firms are bound to worry and they will peek into what happens in USA. So the whole way of framing such events in only Nationalistic perspective is wrong. It is indeed the global village now – rightly or wrongly; regardless of whether we want it or we don’t and there are no preconceived winners – including USA and there are no perennial losers too – so India is not a looser. That means prescriptions as mentioned by Rajeev in his articles for India are not applicable as well.

Umesh Patil
March 24, 2005