24 junho 2007

He's back

Faz tempo que eu não coloco nada dele aqui no cafofo. Pois bem, ele volta em grande estilo tentando explicar por que alguns países são pobres.

Why are Third-World countries poor, while those in the First World aren’t? (The phrase “third world” is a tad shaky, embracing as it seems to Taiwan, Thailand, and Mexico, and also Haiti and Zaire. We will use it for convenience.)

The standard explanation in the Third World is that the West, chiefly the United States, exploits them, buying their raw materials and selling them manufactured goods. Everything is someone else’s fault. The reasons I think are otherwise. The advanced nations will exploit anyone they can, but this hasn’t kept Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Argentina, and many other countries from prospering.

A parte a seguir está sensacional. "Quase" me fez lembrar de um certo país sul-americano.

A serious obstacle to prosperity is Half-Assedness, a quality not widely recognized in econometrics but well known to experienced travelers. Half-Assedness is a curious mixture of just not giving a damn, lack of ambition, little interest in academics, and sometimes something that looks like lethargy.

You go into houses and never see books. A man will start a garage to repair cars for a living. He won’t think of expanding and owning a chain of garages. His family has enough to eat, so why do more? The young, though they could pursue school beyond some pre-high school level, don’t. They marry early instead of establishing themselves first. They live in the present, whereas people in rich countries have one foot in the future. An American thinks college, grad school, career. He is going somewhere, or trying to. He may not adhere to his plan, but he has one.

An element of Half-Assedness is a slack attitude toward maintenance. People who could easily afford nineteen cents for a brake-light bulb don’t. They throw trash in the streets. Potholes go unprepared for years.

Suspected Economic Law: National income is inversely proportional to the amount of trash in the streets.

Another aspect of Half-Assedness is an incapacity to attach importance to time. This comes in two flavors, wholesale and retail. At the wholesale level, an American thinks, “Oh my god, I’m thirty and haven't made partner.” A Third-Worlder lacks any sense of urgency. He sees existence as a period through which one passes instead of an interval in which one does things.

At time’s retail level, Third-Worlder’s think that four o’clock means anywhere from five-thirty to not at all. It isn’t rudeness or inconsideration. If you do it to them, they won’t be offended. By contrast, an American reporter, say, knows that if his nine-o’clock interview happens at nine, the one at eleven will be possible, and the business lunch will come off on time, so that he can hit the computer by three and file at five. It works. Americans show up ten minutes early and wait. In the Third World, writing the same story would take three days instead of one.