Monthly Archives: September 2011

Will America really relinquish her #1 position?

My answer to this question is, unlikely.

Yes, I know, economists are writing about emerging economies and they are projecting new superstar nations on the horizon. Among the predictions are that China will overtake USA in terms of being the economic superpower of the world in the next 15-20 years (depending on who you listen to). That’s not that far away! And, as I had written earlier, India in the same timeframe will become #3 in the world. Hard to imagine but the numbers do tell that story.

Now, let’s get back to the great US of A (sorry, the further I am from the US, the more prolific and profuse my description of her becomes…something about distance making the heart grow fonder, perhaps?).

But, do people really think that just because China becomes the economic superpower of the world, it will also be the #1 nation of the world? Come on.

Here are some reasons why that would be a hard case to make, and a difficult competition for China to undertake. Aside from the economy, here are the qualities and characteristics that make the USA #1 today, and that will keep it #1 for many years to come. And this is despite all the reasons you and your brother can come up with about the  downsides of this country (tea party, anyone?) –

Reason #1

It may not be perfect (of course, it’s not) but it is the premier land of human freedom and liberty.

Reason #2

Despite what Tom Friedman laments about, it is still the bastion of innovation. Just check out Silicon Valley once again, won’t you?

Reason #3

Again, despite what Tom Friedman says, the education system, especially the higher education system is absolutely above par that of other nations. Primarily it encourages student creativity, freedom of expression and thought like few others. Put another way, there are more and better higher educational institutions that build a solid well-rounded educational foundation for students in the US than anywhere else in the world.

Reason #4

Today’s economic crisis has muted this somewhat, but America still stands tall as a land of opportunity, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. According to a report published in 2010 by the Small Business Administration that compared 71 countries and their entrepreneurship, the US had fallen to #3 behind Denmark and Canada during the economic crisis.

However, according to the same report, “the U.S. earns high marks for startup skills, competition and new-technology development, and also ranks first in entrepreneurial aspirations – how much activity is directed toward innovation, high-impact entrepreneurship and globalization”. This is what makes the difference. There is an underlying fabric and entrepreneurial culture that pervades all corners of the United States. So, while other countries like China and India are being pushed forward as the new lands of opportunity, this type of culture and the necessary support infrastructure are still in development mode there.

In my opinion, it will take awhile for them to catch up.  Check out the chart below; while it is from 2009, it still shows how far ahead in the lead the US is with respect to entrepreneurship.

Broad Entrepreneurs By Sector and By Country

Reason #5

The melting pot – it is the nation with an endemic characteristic developed over a couple of centuries of its young existence – that of attracting people from all corners of the world to its shores. The United States has succeeded in bringing together the (best of) cultures and people from around the world and creating an advantage from this unique and ongoing amalgamation.

So, what can possibly change all this?  Yes, you guessed it. The wrong leadership. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the next election. Toes too, for good measure.  That is when the country could see itself swinging one way – progressive, or the other.  There are just enough fringe groups who strongly believe and advocate regressive policies in all the cases mentioned above, and who are making discernible noises about their opinions, that it pays not to take them too lightly.

However, for purposes of concluding this post, I am going to assume that good sense will prevail in the majority and that the best leadership will be the order of the day in the future. If not, I hope that whatever mistakes are made in selecting political leaders, they are also corrected as quickly as possible (four years max!).

Given this, I further predict that 15, 25 or even 50 years from now, regardless of who the #1 economic superpower is, the United States will still be the #1 country in the world. The country, that is, to which people from around the world would still want to flock to – for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Want to take me on?

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Silicon Valley: By Samykolon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Columbia University: By Momos (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Entrepreneurs Worldwide Chart: http://www.dawncavalieri.com/web/investment_professional/vol_2_no_4/investing-in-troubled-times.html

Safe and Warm in the City of Mumbai

Call me Pollyanna if you must, but I believe that people are generally good until proven otherwise. However, it’s very difficult to stick to this truism in many places around the world, especially the very large metro areas. It’s not that people are not good there, it’s just that we see very few demonstrations of it.

Either its a New York City where you are invisible – just one of the multitudes lost in the crowds, or it’s Los Angeles where again you are invisible – in the vast expanse of neighborhoods. Actually, I take that back, in NYC, sometimes you are not invisible but you wish you were, because someone else was rude to you just now…:)

I do see a difference in some of the southern US cities, and I see a difference in smaller towns, wherever they may be. 

Not that it’s a small town by any account, but that brings me to Mumbai.  I’ve compared its similiarities to NYC in another post but there are a couple of major differences.

Safe and Warm in the City of Mumbai!

For one, in Mumbai, people are warm to others. You may be a stranger or you may be a lifer, whatever the case may be, you are rarely invisible, and it’s even rarer to encounter rude behavior. People generally have a ‘live and let live’ attitude, and they are helpful when you need help. This is why I enjoy taking my visiting friends and showing them around the city. The weather may be unbearable in summer, but its people are not!

Here’s another quality that may surprise you. Notwithstanding all the stories you hear about the Mafia underworld of Mumbai, this is a safe city. It is said that a woman alone can take a taxi at 2 am in the morning and feel safe about reaching her destination problem-free. I have never done that before. But I could, without being overly concerned, since I have heard about Mumbai’s safety so many times from so many different people. I can’t say I’d do the same in New Delhi! And I won’t even feel that comfortable doing so in Bangalore or Hyderabad.

People in Mumbai - Monsoon Sunday at Gateway of India

Now that I’ve been here for a few months, I really believe in these qualities of Mumbai – people are generally nice to you, and it is known to be a safe city for ordinary people. I say this while acknowledging but ignoring some very special cases such as 26/11 and even the most recent bomb blasts that occurred just a few days ago .  I relegate those to terrible acts of terrorism by a small fringe element – people essentially not from Bombay but seeking to destroy its very essence.

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So, back to the premise that people here are basically good-natured and warm. What I wonder though is, why is this the case?

Is it simply endemic to the region, i.e., are people from Maharashtra just built this way?

Or, rather, is it because Mumbai is a melting pot of so many different cultures from around the country (and world) that it has become that way?

I really don’t know the answer, but would sure love to hear others’ theories about this. Please, enlighten me!

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Photo 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joezach/90248788/ {{cc-by-2.0}} 

Photo 2: Sandhya – June 2011

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