Sunday, March 14, 2004

Empire: By Neall ferguson: My thoughts

Just saw the history channel program on this book and got the basic idea about what this book is all about.(should have read this book before writing this article). Seems like it is a how-to book for building empires. So I thought I will add my thought on the subject. Basically this occured while reading the rise of the ottoman empire(one of the longest enduring empire 13/14th century to 19th century). If you look at the concept of genisaries and streach to administrative services we get ICS(Indian Civil Services). Knowingly or unknowingly the britishers developed a process of choosing the people (intellectual, receptive and monetarily successful but not traditional elite), "shock and awe" them culturally in their society, and then use them to govern the local people(since they feel themselves to be different from "barbarian" local population). This feature is quite apparent in most of the novels written by PremChandra (the great Indian novelist during pre-independence India). This seems to the way the British developed their civil service system which was used to rule India. The rulers/viceroy like Curzon and others may think they were working in interest of local population but being so far away from locals that there is no way they could have known what locals' interest were. But something that really worked over time in India's favour was that some of the elites got disillutioned with the "shock and awe" Birtish rulers' culture and so the mechanisms and institutions that were setup to rule Indian seems to have been turned against the British in the end. But one thing that I would really give to British is that they did not try to supress the movement using bullets. This may be due to the foolhardiness or underestimation of movement during initial stages and/or due to shear size of the movement at the later stage which may have resulted in violent rebellion. Besides that the idea that problems of world is not result of British Imperialism is at the very least laughable statement. The british rulers of the colonies without any consideration of local sentiments and possible consiquences drew the administrative/country lines which has been the point of contention for past 60 years. This may be because of the bankrupcy of the Britain after 2nd world war, complete lack of interest of ruling parties in leaving the existing colonies without any thought about the future and local leaders in rush to get "independence" thought that all the problems will be solved automatically when the Britishers will leave. This thinking, that imperialistic powers are needed to help the barbarians develop culture/democracy, is the base to any modern imperialism(since late mid-19th century) which tries to justify the cultural and social disruption of native people as humanitarianism and cultural assimilation. Anyway, this has been going on for century in one form or other and continue till we are part of civilization because of inherent human nature.

Labor market: I think I now get it?

Let me try to build the model for the society in terms of labor. Basically the society/community at any place has a variety of people with different type of built-in skills. So that some of them may be very good in social engineering, while other may be better at analytical skill or at creative skills or at performing repetive jobs. This may be apparent in varing IQ, EQ or other "scientific" scores. Nature makes sure that the entire gamut of the people with varing skills are part of society in order to ensure the survival of species overtime. So any community will over time develop statas based on the skills of the people. Sometimes this startification may be enforced by society itself without regards to person's skills like in case of Hindu caste system or at other times social structure may skew in favour of specific skill set which does not follow the natural distribution skills like in highly industrialized western nations. These divergences in natural skill sets and required skill sets would result in unrest in the labour market which may have its own political and social impacts like protectionism, xenophobia, broadening gap between haves and havenots. But over time the nature adapts to the new skill requirement by the basic strategy of survival of the fitest. I am not sure how quickly nature can adapt. We know that the human typically has long reproduction cycle (female can start reproduction only after 14-18 years). But I think this would be offset by the large population size, improved health care and better communication and transport. The larger population size would ensure that more permutation and combination of genes are possible and improved health care would ensure survival of other wise "naturally unfit" people which have the skills required by society (This is based on assumption that skills is a combination of nature and nurture where nurture should be used to hone the natural skills which may be completely wrong). Besides that the better communication and transport facility means that societies skewed skill requirements can be met by migration of people to requirement or migration of work to places with skill set (example towns, university). Obviously the world and labor market in particular is more complex than the simplistic model I talked above. But it is good enough for me to understand the concept. I am not sure about how accurate is the idea of nature and nurture with nurture helping nature in case of mordern labor market. Given that the skills required are so dynamic that they change every decade the nature can not be expected to cope with it. In such a scenario, will nurture (i.e. incentives, training) help the society in getting the required skills. I donot think so!! There is a limit to how much nurture can help. Human, I guess, has an inherent limit to learning new skills, which degrades with age. So the aging (i.e. societies that have higher % of elderly people) and/or smaller societies are at a inherent disadvantage if they want to continue to be leader in skill business. Instead these society can succeed if they already have existing skills(like political, human and financial management) and power which can be used to control and develop the younger and bigger societies as "skill pool" to be used over time. How is this going to affect the controlling society which will have its own set of people who donot have the necessary skills or can not become part of elite who controls the "skill pool". Over time the difference between haves and havenots is going to increase, resulting in other social implications and may culminate in the social/economic status of have nots reaching the levels of haves in the "skill pool" society. With regards to younger/larger societies, they will continue to be puppets in the hand of the controlling society. Wow, this seems like a real dooms day scenario! Am I that depressed!! anyway, I donot think this conspiracy theory is going to play out, but it seems worst case scenario that, I hope, I am going to laugh at 5 years from now!!