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TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles written after 2010
Supply and no demand
Freedom and organization
The Islamic dictatorship on the West
The credit-based economy of the West
Charity and development: the perverse loop
The Western war on morality
What is unfair about the modern economy
Africa's biggest problem: its wealth
The age of plastic pollution
Stealing from the blind
The bargaining society vs the consumer society
China, globalization and Africa
Helping Africans... or not?
Articles written before 2010
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

  • (october 2010) Supply and no demand.
    (Report from a trip to the Pacific region)
    As i travel through developed countries after many years of traveling through under-developed countries, the biggest cultural shock is that the price is... the price. In the developing world the price is set by supply and demand. You can always bargain a price at a market and even at a downtown store. You can bargain the price of a hotel room and the price of taxi ride. In the developed world the price is set by the costs of manufacturing, transporting and marketing the product. What people are willing to pay for it becomes a minor factor. The price can be bargained only marginally. Hence one sees long stretches of expensive stores in European and Japanese cities with virtually no customers inside. The store owners complain that business is bad (meaning that customers are not willing to pay the price that the store demands). It does not occur to those European or Japanese store owners to slash prices by 50%, as anyone in China, Morocco, Mexico or India would do. In theory the developed world lives in a free market driven by supply and demand, but in practice we have created an odd economy in which prices bear little relationship to supply and demand. The state of the economy as a whole depends on whether the customers are willing to spend the money that the stores demand. Hence the importance of marketing, whose purpose is basically to avoid the need for bargaining (instead of reducing the price of a product so that people will buy it, spend money on marketing the product so that people will buy it at the current price).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (october 2010) Freedom and organization.
    (Report from a trip to the Pacific region)
    In october 2010 i took first trip to developed countries in many years, and i accidentally picked four countries (Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand) that have virtually no crime and virtually no Islamic-related trouble. For the first time in many years i didn't have to worry about thieves, diseases, civil wars, anti-Western sentiment, corrupt officials, power outages, etc. This might explain why some days i was getting a bit bored: usually i don't have time to get bored because i am too busy trying to survive. This time the surviving was easy.
    However, it's interesting that i felt i had less freedom in these developed countries than in Africa or in the Middle East. I started missing the power of bargaining (some hostels were empty but the owner/manager still refused to reduce the price of the room, and ditto for half-empty restaurants). I also missed the flexibility of stores and markets that are open whenever there is a customer, not according to some published hours. I missed transportation that leaves whenever there are enough passengers, instead of transportation that leaves only at 8am daily no matter how many or few people want to travel at 3pm. Hours rapidly became the most annoying constraint: i was not used to hours anymore. I had gotten used to just show up, find out where the guards are eating or watching tv, give them a little tip, and get them to open the gates. In a developed country not even a presidential order would open a museum or a library after hours.
    A tour to a park was canceled because they didn't have enough people: in a developing country, they would have either slashed prices to lure more people or asked the ones already committed to pay a bit more, but they would not have canceled a trip. The net result of Western-style organization is that i couldn't see what i wanted to see: that's less freedom, not more freedom.
    Coin-operated public phones are ubiquitous in developing countries: you put a coin into a slot, dial the number and, voila, you are talking to the other party. If you need to make a phone call in a developed country, it's likely that you will not find a public phone (society expects you to have your own mobile phone with an adequately expensive plan to make phone calls). If you do find a public phone, most likely it requires a phone card. To buy a phone card you have to find out who sells them, which is often a store that is closed when you need it. If you do find the phone card, it is likely to be many times more expensive than the phone call you originally wanted to make (i remember having to pay 49 francs in Paris to make a one-franc phone call). To avoid this lengthy and expensive ordeal you are likely to skip the phone call altogether. In a developing country you would have made the phone call in a second.
    The most annoying feature of Western organization is the taxi system. In a developed country the taxi driver does not quote you a price. The driver will simply reply that the taximeter decides the price. I am supposed to take a taxi without knowing how much the ride will cost. Would you enter a store where you are forced to pay for a good when you touch it but you will be told the price only when you check out? That's precisely what you do when you take a taxi in a developed country: you commit to pay the price no matter what it will be. In developing countries you usually bargain the price *before*, not after, the ride. You know exactly how much it will cost you. You may be paying a bit more (because the taxi driver is usually more skilled than you at bargaining) but knowing how much it will cost you is an important factor.
    The affluent world is better organized, but i am not sure that this translates into more freedom for the individual. It certainly translates in less work (and costs) for the establishment.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (apr 2010) The Islamic dictatorship on the West. The biggest threat to freedom in the West comes from Islam, a religion that is not even Western and that the West never invited, but that is now pervasive within its society. Islam is reintroducing in the West the terror methods that the Catholic Church employed for many centuries to enforce its own version of history and its own dogmas: both allowed the Catholic Church to gain political power and de facto rule the world. It took centuries to get rid of that religious dictatorship. Now the West is in danger of falling into another religious dictatorship if it doesn't act promptly to criminalize it. In 2006 Muslims worldwide rioted to protest cartoons published by a Danish newspaper that made fun of Mohammed (an ancient warlord of Saudi Arabia whom Muslims consider a prophet). Dutch film director Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2004 for his anti-Islamic views. USA media were largely silent about the Mohammed cartoons for fear of how Muslims would react. In april 2010 the very popular channel Comedy Central was openly threatened with death by a fanatic who changed his name to Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee (not a joke) on a website called Revolutionmuslim.com Neither the website was taken down nor the fanatic was arrested and deported to Mecca for eternity. Instead Comedy Central promptly changed its comedy sketch. The German opera house suspended performances of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" because a scene hurt the feelings of Muslims by displaying Mohammed's severed head. (No German theater ever suspended a performance of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" that includes gruesome treatments of a Jew). The publisher Random House has never published a novel about the prophet's third wife after it bought the rights to it: just too likely to offend Muslims. Yale University Press did not include the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in a book about... the Danish cartoons of Mohammed! I personally have received three death threats for my articles on Islam (zero death threats for my articles against Israel, zero death threats for my articles that demistify Jesus and Christianity). There is nothing that Bush/Cheney have done that limits the freedom of speech and of press as much as the simple fact that Islam has entered Western societies.
    Muslims themselves should be interested in stopping this form of censorship because Mohammed has become the most hated person in the world. It is not only in the West that Muslims try to muzzle the media. This is happening in much more brutal ways in many developing countries, even in countries where Muslims represent a tiny percentage of the population. You may get away with insulting your dictator, but you will not get away with insulting the supposed prophet of Islam. This attitude has created an obvious backlash: everybody hates Mohammed. There is no other figure in the world (not even George W Bush) who is so famous in a negative way. The Muslims who create this ideological dictatorship are certainly not giving Islam a good name. They (not we) are incredibly efficient at defaming Islam.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (mar 2010) The credit-based economy of the West. The economies of developing countries are easy to explain: they either manufacture or mine something, and that produces value.
    The economies of the West are, instead, manipulated by a force that has become so strong to shape entire financial systems: marketing. For example, things like cars, air conditioning and cell phones have now become necessities; but obviously they are not because countless generations lived perfectly fine lives without them (in fact, one could argue they lived better and longer lives). Each generation is faced with a new set of necessities, created by marketing, on top of the necessities that the previous generation already had to buy. Inevitably, people in the West ran out of money to purchase this ever expanding set of "necessities".
    Grandparents paid cash for their necessities. The parents made debts to buy their necessities. The current generation has to make bigger debts to pay for more and more necessities. They will work till the last day simply to pay off their debts because 1. credit instruments inflate values by creating a demand that should not exist, 2. the West is less and less rich compared with the rest of the world.
    The credit economy does not teach people how to save. The skills for saving money are rapidly declining. For example, multiple homes in the same street pay for wireless internet, when one could serve all of them. Most people could do their garden and pool, but instead hire gardeners and pool services. People are getting less and less capable of saving money, more and more driven to spending even the money they still have to earn.
    The goal of Western society is to make people spend everything they have, and even spend today what they will earn for the rest of their life. It sounds like a form of cannibalism. It is a society that eats itself.
    And it all starts with marketing that creates the perception of necessities.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (feb 2010) Charity and development: the perverse loop. I have met aid workers in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. While i respect the work and admire the dedication of the inviduals (and personally contribute quite a bit of money to the charitable organizations they work for), I think that charitable initiatives sometimes distort the issues. Here is the loop that is going on in developing countries:
    1. The West and increasingly China rely on cheap mineral and cheap labor (mining, transportation, security) from Africa to support economies that allow the West (and increasingly China) to afford a wealthy lifestyle.
    2. The African regimes use the money that they make from selling minerals to the West and China to purchase arms from the West and China that help them remain in power (and to purchase financial services that mainly benefit the very small rich elite)
    3. Therefore our wealthy lifestyle depends to some extent (we can discuss how much) on the poverty of the "developing" world.
    4. Then we devote a tiny percentage of our surplus of savings for "charity", i.e. to help these countries cope with their poverty
    5. Charity, incidentally, has some negative side effects
      1. Whenever we donate a blanket or a sack of rice, we damage the local economy. Anybody who sells blankets or rice goes out of business: he has to compete against free goods delivered by foreign aid workers. The business we destroy is precisely the infrastructure that we aim to create.
      2. The beneficiaries of charity often don't learn the value of the goods they receive for free. It makes a big difference whether you have to save money day after day to buy a laptop or you get the laptop for free (and, if you break it, you will just get another one). This explains why so much of the foreign-built infrastructure decays rapidly (and sometimes is even vandalized by kids), whereas the village well or the hiking trail is kept in stellar condition by the community (kids who just dreamed of vandalizing them would be skinned alive by the community).
      3. The beneficiaries of charity come to depend on charity. An entire economy grows around the free aid that comes from abroad (including a corrupt bureaucracy that administers it and delivers it). Instead of creating an economy built on knowledge of how to grow food and manufacture tools, foreign aid creates an economy built on knowledge of how to obtain foreign aid.
      4. In some cases charity might even create more jobs in the West than in Africa: the only jobs created in Africa are those related to administering and delivering the aid (and often these are Western workers anyway), while the people who actually grow the food, manufacture the medicines and so forth are in Western countries. These companies are paid money to deliver food, medicines and other goods to Africa. That money comes from ordinary people and from the government. De facto, that money helps Western companies and pays Western workers: it creates neither companies nor (skilled) jobs in Africa.
      5. Foreign aid workers cause inflation in the places where they operate. Cities like Juba (Sudan) and Goma (Congo) got more expensive (in fact, very expensive) after the arrival of thousands of aid workers and United Nations personnel. Foreigners are not as good as locals at bargaining, therefore prices go up. Any city with many foreign workers has two economies: the relatively rich economy of the hotels, restaurants and supermarkets that cater to the foreigners, and the increasingly poor economy of the people who cannot afford any of the things that they used to be able to afford.
    6. We also ask them to pay a price for the aid that we provide. It is no longer an explicit religious crusade, but it's nonetheless a war on their moral values. While it delivers them aid, the West tells them what is right and what is wrong, according to Western value. I personally agree that most Western values (e.g., women's rights and democracy, to mention big ones) are better than traditional African values, but then i am a Western person... The fact is that we Westerners give them aid and in return we implicitly ask them to surrender their traditional values and adopt Western moral values, a process that is not altogether different from what religious missionaries used to do centuries ago (See The Western war on morality)
    7. More importantly, charity doesn't do anything to rectify the fundamental problem (points number one and two) but it makes us feel good. It makes us feel that we care for the poor of the world, when in fact our wealthy lifestyle depends on the poverty of those people. If all we do is to send some money to Africa (a tiny percentage of an individual's income, a tiny percentage of the country's GDP), sure we help someone eat for a day or a week, but we don't do anything to change a system that will keep millions in poverty for a long long time.
    When we discuss the economic booms of India and China, we rarely mention that their economies were larger than any western economy before the European powers invaded them. India had a larger GDP than Britain, but one and half century later Britian's GDP was ten times larger, and it is still twice larger. One could argue that Europeans crippled the economies of India and China, i.e. turned them into poor countries, and then some charity organizations (led by the religious people who had a moral agenda) spent a few pennies to help the poor of India and China. Something similar is still happening in Africa and other poor countries of the world.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) Helping Africans... or not? (Report from Africa).
    There are some unwanted side effects of the work of foreign-aid agencies in Africa:
      Kids in school who are given a laptop for free don't know the value of a laptop, and negligence destroys a lot of them. They did not have to save money for many months in order to buy a laptop. Therefore they don't realize its value. An object by itself does not carry the complete meaning. Its meaning comes from knowing how you obtain it. If that history is removed (if somebody gives it to you for free), something important is missing from that object, something that is not material but is important for the well-being of the object.
    • A child got malaria because the father did not buy mosquito nets. When asked why he didn't buy the mosquito nets (he has the money), he politely replied that you don't buy mosquito nets: the foreign-aid organizations give them to you for free. So he was just waiting to get one for free, rather than "wasting" money to buy one right away. His daughter might die because of that delay. A quick poll in the school showed that almost no children was sleeping in the proper mosquito nets. Note that some of these children have cell phones: a mosquito net costs a lot less than a cell phone. When you know that you might get something for free, common sense is diasbled.
    • There are wind and solar-powered lamp-posts in the streets of Kampala. They were donated by Scandinavian countries. The kids throw rocks at them and break the lights. The government does not have the money to replace the bulbs, nor money to hire police to guard the lampposts. Therefore they are there but they don't work. Again, because they are free of charge, the community does not perceive them as something valuable that must be protected (the way, say, a water well is protected: children would not even think of throwing garbage in the well because they would skinned alive by their families).
    This is not all too different from the problems that the West has with social programs that sometimes end up discouraging people from working and therefore "condemn" them to a life in poverty. So it's not just Africa. It is noble and generous to give something for free to the poorer people, but the implications are not trivial. When you have to buy an object with hard work, your relationship with that object is different than when it is just given to you.
    Another side effect of the numerous aid agencies that flock to these countries is that they create inflation. I am not sure if anybody has done any study about this, but the numbers are scary. Cities like Gulu (northern Uganda) and Juba (capital of southern Sudan) are so expensive that only very rich people can afford to stay there. The foreign workers can afford to spend a lot of money (and they are really bad at bargaining), so the prices keep going up until they reach the same cost of living as in the West. Most foreigners are paid by NGOs (aid agencies, who can easily afford to waste the charity money they receive from donors) but how can the natives survive when prices double and triple and quadruple within a few years?
    Another side effect of foreign aid is that sometimes it hurts the local economy. For example, the Islamists of Somalia (al-Shabab) have repeatedly threatened terrorist attacks against the United Nations' World Food Programme. Some of it is simply related to religious dogmas (most personnel of the WFP is female, which is anathema to Islamists, and the vast majority is Christian), but their stand was popular with one social class: Somali farmers. They claim that the WFP is hurting their business by getting people addicted to rely on foreign aid. Not only do people get food from the WFP but they often get "better" food. Why spend your own money on local produce when the WFP gives you better food for free? The local farmers also fear that, once the famine is over, people will still want to eat the Western food that they got used to, and therefore buy foreign imports even if they cost more.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) China, globalization and Africa. (Report from Africa). The most visible difference between my African trips at 2-3 year intervals is that more and more roads are paved. The other visible difference is the exponential increase in Chinese ventures in Africa and the wide availability of Chinese goods.
    Africa at independence (1950s) had a good infrastructure. There were railways everywhere and many roads were paved. Then Africa plunged into half a century of warfare. Everything was destroyed in the process. What survived the wars did not survive the corruption and ineptitude of the governments. Only recently have governments begun the process of rebuilding the infrastructure. It doesn't take much to pave a road and it makes a huge difference for the villages at the other end. One of the reasons why so many millions of people moved to capitals is that the capitals were the only place with some degree of security and essential services. A paved road makes it easier to spread both to distant towns.
    On the other hand, one can see the effect that "civilization" is having on the local economy: as a tourist, i don't find "typical" souvenirs anymore. Their markets have Chinese-made shirts and purses. The local artisans survive when their villages are relatively isolated. The moment a paved road brings the goods of globalization the local artisans make no sense anymore. Why wait two days for a tailor to sew a shirt for you when you can buy a Chinese-made shirt at the market for the same price? Ironically, the same road that could help the local industry export their goods is helping the Chinese traders destroy the local industry.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) The bargaining society vs the consumer society. (Report from Africa). Westerners who live in Africa and Asia frequently complain that they need to bargain prices. Westerners are used that stores display the price of their goods, and those prices cannot be bargained. In fact, in most Western stores you can't even find the manager who would be authorized to change the price. In many developing countries, instead, every price can be negotiated. If you are a white person in Africa, they can easily ask you three times more than the running price. Most Westerners think that bargaining is not a civilized manner and that it wastes precious time. I asked a Frenchman what he does in France when the price is too high, since he cannot bargain in France. He said that he just tries another store. And if the price is still high, he tries another store, and so on. But that begs a thought. A Westerner who lives in a country where there is no bargaining on prices will spend hours and maybe days "shopping" for a cheaper price. This involves time and money (for transportation). What makes this system more "civilized" than bargaining in an African market? When i bargain, i usually get a good price within a few minutes. If i don't, i still have the option of trying another store. But the big advantage is that in most cases i will leave the store with the good that i wanted to buy at a price that i was willing to pay. In a Western country i may spend the entire day driving around and not finding the good i wanted at the price i am willing to pay. The African system sounds more efficient to me. In fact, there are now Western-style supermarkets in pretty much every town of the developing world, but they are usually overpriced, and usually serve the Western expats living there. I wonder why someone would prefer to pay a lot more or spend a day driving around rather than engaging in a discussion with the seller.
    I suspect that the reason that most Westerners prefer a system without bargaining is that bargaining requires some skills. It is a lot easier to just "shop around" (all you have to do is board a bus or drive a car) than to negotiate a price. Shopping around is actually more time consuming, but it's something that does not require any skill other than knowing how to go from A to B. Bargaining instead requires a lot of psychological skills that, quite simply, Western people have lost. That's what "consumer society" really means.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) Stealing from the blind. (Report from Africa). The one thing that is still missing in most African countries is the rule of law. Westerns who live in Africa complain often about this. However, we are the wrong pulpit. Western Europeans like to lecture everybody, but Western Europeans lecturing Africans about honesty is simply laughable. Western Europeans have been the number-one crooks in the world, responsible for most evils of the world (fascism, communism, colonialism, slaverym and now global warming that started with the mass deforestation of Europe). On top of it, it is pretty obvious that Western Europeans still run the show in Africa through corrupt proxy governments. (Western Europeans love to blame the USA for all of this, but the truth is that the USA has most of its own natural resources, whereas the likes of France and Germany and Britain depend much more on African resources, not to mention oil, than the USA does, and the USA is visible only in Equatorial Guinea, otherwise it's all Western Europeans and Chinese who control the African economies, and the Africans themselves complain that the USA ignores them).
    Of course the counter-argument is that Africans were not using any of their resources until the Europeans came, so why shouldn't Europeans take advantage. The Europeans are thieves, but they steal something that the Africans were not using.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) The age of plastic pollution. (Report from Africa). Rwanda confiscates plastic bags and plastic bottles. I had seen no plastic from Brazzaville to Franceville. In Libreville it's everywhere. I'm back to the Western world of hyper-pollution. In the poor neighboring countries juice is sold in cartons, and sodas in cans or glass bottles, but in richer Gabon plastic bags and plastic bottles are everywhere (and completely cover every stream of water). The reason for plastic of course is that the manufacturer makes a little more money by packaging his drink in plastic instead of glass. That profit is not passed on to the consumer, because the cost of the drink remains the same. It is just a little more profit for the manufacturer. However, the counterpart is that all this plastic is a huge cost for society: someone has to clean up. In the West we pay taxes so that cities can set up expensive services of recycling (which pollute anyway: it does pollute to drive all those trucks around and it does pollute to burn plastics). In Africa the governments haven't done it yet, but soon these cities will overflow with so much plastic garbage that the government will have to do something about it. So in the end plastic is a profit for a few but a cost for all.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) Africa's biggest problem: its wealth. (Report from Africa). The African countries are clearly catching up. The gap between the middle class in the West and the middle class in the developing world (and even in Africa) is shrinking by the day. The roads are paved, the sidewalks are clean, everybody seems to have a job. Compare with New York, for example, where you see rats in the streets and crowds of unemployed teenagers roaming the neighborhoods at night.
    Gone are the days when the streets of Africa were full of naked children begging for food (and it wasn't that long ago). The problem is that the West desperately needs these countries to remain poor in order to guarantee the Western standard of living. Our standard of living heavily depends on the easy and cheap availability of their mineral resources. Our favorite electronic gadgets, our appliances and our cars would cost a lot more if these countries charged a lot more for their raw materials. The reason that the prices are not adjusting as fast as they should (as fast as oil did, for example) is that the West (especially Europe, that has few minerals of its own) keeps in power corrupt governments. These Africa governments sell us their precious minerals very cheaply and we sell them the arms that help keep the government in power. The average person in Africa gets an indirect benefit because this system creates jobs, both in the private sector (a fallout of the Western or Chinese exploitation) and in the public sector (governments get richer and bigger). But the truth is that this system mainly benefits the Western consumer, who keeps enjoying a much higher standard of living based on materials that the West does not own.
    This system cannot continue forever. The middle class of these countries demands more and more honesty from their governments. This will inevitably lead to more awareness about the natural resources of the African countries. Your cell phone would not exist or would cost 10 times more if the coltan of Congo was not as cheap as it is thanks to the civil war. Something is wrong with the fact that you can afford a cell phone and the people who live near the mines of coltan cannot afford a decent meal.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) What is unfair about the modern economy. (Report from Africa). When i take the African "bush taxi" with six passengers in a compact car, i think of how spoiled people are in the USA: most of my friends insist on renting a bigger car (probably twice the size of an African car) just when we are four. It feels weird to squeeze four people in a small car in the USA. However, most USA citizens are renting that larger car with money that they don't have: they have debts. They are using money that they borrowed from banks.
    When i travel in the bush taxi or shop through a market, i think that most of these people are actually richer than the average USA citizen. The average USA citizen has a net worth that is negative: she or he owes more money than she or he has. In Africa nobody owes money: there are no credit cards and there are no mortgages. You buy what you have cash for. By definition they have a net worth that is positive. And, yet, the average USA citizen can afford (and actually takes for granted) a lot more than these people, from a midsize car to fit just four people to air conditioning in the car, from nice clothes to (gasp) a personal car, from a large-screen tvset to an iPhone.
    When i focus on this paradox, there is no doubt in my mind that a massive crisis has to hit the USA (and the West in general) to restore the balance. It is just common sense. The debtors cannot possibly live a nicer life than the ones who have no debts at all. Something is very rotten in the Western world.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2010) The Western war on morality. (Report from a trip to Africa). There has been an uproar in the West about Uganda's proposed bill on homosexuality. Politicians around Europe and the USA described it as "abhorrent", an "affront", etc. The press outside the West and Latin America was largely silent. The event was not news in the Islamic world, in China or in India. It was big news throughout Africa, but mainly because the West tried to impose its arrogant will on poor weak Uganda. (Incidentally, very few Western media reported that the Ugandan bill was the consequence of the anti-gay conference organized the previous month by three USA evangelists). Uganda's bill proposes the death penalty for any HIV-positive person who takes part in a homosexual act, and life in prison for homosexuality.
    This may sound appalling to people in the West who are discussing the merits of "gay marriage" but the reality is that homosexuality has been considered a crime in most societies of the world ever since. The only question for these societies is how serious a crime it is.
    The West still has the colonial attitude of looking down paternalistically to the "primitive" societies that don't understand its enlightened values, but the world is changing and the "developing" world is becoming more assertive about its own values.
    This episode is representative of something that has been going on for a while, and represents a major tension between the West and the developing world. First of all, the developing world resents the idea that Western values are somehow superior just because they are accepted by Western audiences. The more you travel around China, Russia, the Islamic world and Africa the more you realized that just about nobody sides with the West on key issues like democracy (widely viewed as a Western plot to control their countries) and sexuality (widely viewed as a sign of Western decadence).
    There are indeed Western values that developing countries long for. These correspond to the "old" Western civilization of study, engineering and fanily entertainment. They like these values. They want to establish the same values in their societies. However, there is a "new" Western civilization of drugs, atheism and gay marriage that they strongly dislike. The rights that we want to give to gays are a good example of the gap, but people in Africa or southeast Asia are also positively puzzled by the Western passion for drugs, tattoes, promiscuity and bad manners. They were taught by Western people that those are bad things. Now it's the Western people themselves who are practicing them.
    The West is indirectly carrying out a war on its own old morality, which has become the morality of a large part of the developing world, a morality that emphasizes family values and social order. Just like the first time around, the West is trying to impose its moral values with the arrogance of the person who views himself as superior, for example imposing drugs and gay marriage on a world that wants nothing to do with drugs and gay marriage. indirectly this becomes an indictment of democracy: who wants democracy if the price to pay is that your children will do drugs and become gay? Most of the world doesn't quite like the idea.
    It is relatively easy to define what is morality in Africa or in the Islamic world or, in general, in any non-westernized part of the world. It is much more difficult to define "morality" in the West. Basically, the West is moving towards an idea of morality that bans anything that is moral in nature, because by definition something that is "moral" is a limitation of freedom for those who do not fit its definition. Ultimately, Western morality is becoming tolerance of just about any behavior. The few laws that still forbid some kinds of behavior are rarely enforced and would probably not survive a referendum.
    This episode therefore underscores two big problems: one if the Western arrogant attitude of superiority that still exists despite the rapid political and economic decline of the West, and the other one is the fact that the West is rapidly moving a concept of morality so liberal that basically it makes morality immoral.
    P.S. of March 2010. Traveling to Latin America (a very Catholic region), the phenomenon is even more grotesque. The Catholic Church was incredibly successful in "converting" these people. It is hard to believe that these are the descendants of the Aztecs and the Mayas. It is not only the word of the Bible that they adopted: it is the very behavior of a good Catholic. Ordinary people tend to be polite, well-behaved and well-dressed, all words that are rapidly becoming meaningless or even politically incorrect in the West. The West taught these people what proper behavior is. The West was very successful in spreading its moral values to these societies. Now the same West tells them that the traditional behavior is ridiculous and promotes violence, drugs and promiscuity.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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