Hey, did you hear the joke about the world leader who had the answer to the global economic crisis? Well, there you go -- now you have.
Remember the old days when leaders of developed nations would hold summits to decide how to solve the plight of the world's poor? Now they ARE the world's poor. They don't seem to know it, though. I mean, Greece is fielding a team at the Euro soccer tournament when it should probably be busy with other things -- like panhandling.
How on earth did the First World ever get like this? By adopting the practices of those whose fate they were seeking to change with their perennial generosity, that's how.
In nations that have historically tended towards poverty, collectivism is the norm. Those seeking to break free from collectivist straitjackets and set themselves apart from the crowd typically migrate elsewhere to succeed and make something of themselves. They obtain their education and achieve success in a country where independent thought and individual achievement is rewarded, then come back to their country of origin much later with their achievements setting them apart. Former Peru President Alejandro Toledo and current Mali Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra (who's also the former chief of Microsoft Africa) come to mind as examples. There had to be an incubator for them -- a place that nurtured the idea that anyone with the requisite talent, drive and courage could do better than what they might have been born into.
Until now, the world has been divided into wealth-producing nations and wealth-absorbing nations. Not coincidentally, the wealth producers are the more individualist societies. There was a time when world summits consisted of negotiating how much wealth would have to be shifted to the have-not countries in the interest of "fighting" poverty. Then, whatever was subsequently sent was readily absorbed into the abyss like water into a desert plant.
Could the world have ever imagined a time when the flow of funds from the "haves" would dry up? Well, it has. And it's all because the concept of the collective in the formerly wealthy countries has become a more noble value than individual success.
See, there's really no such thing as a rich country in the collective sense. The wealth of any given population is the result of the independent productivity and innovation of the individuals who reside within it. The reward in a society that honors the individual over the collective? Success, due credit and individual wealth.
Over time, this concept has become corrupted. When the populations of First World nations started buying beyond what they had earned and expecting a standard of living beyond what they had produced for themselves, millions of mind-sets shifted from that of self-reliance to that of collective dependence. As the concept of success became socialized, so did the idea of responsibility. If you weren't going to pay your mortgage or your credit card bills, who did you figure would be doing it for you? And how, exactly, is this mentality any different from the mind-set of an entire population dependent on foreign aid for survival?
Africa is dependent on America. America is dependent on the personal viability, wealth-generation and productivity of Americans. But the average Joe in America with an over-mortgaged home is dependent on his neighbor's productivity. The neighbor is dependent on his bank. And the bank is dependent on China. Ergo, Africa is now dependent on China. And what they're doing now is cutting out the middle men: the average Joe, his neighbor, his bank and America.
But just because the First World is in financial trouble doesn't mean it can't still pay everyone's bar tab! Heck, no! Don't even think of taking out your wallet!
It's never hurt to keep pecking at the First World food dish even though everyone can plainly see that it's empty. The noise made by an empty rattling dish is usually reason enough for a refill. The First World may not have the good seed anymore, but they'll throw some kind of grub in there, if only to stop the clanging -- at least until the grub runs out for good.
As the agenda for this week's G20 summit in Mexico suggests, rather than find an effective tourniquet, the First World may in fact find a way to slit its veins lengthwise and bleed out a few more initiatives it can't afford under the guise of a "green" agenda. Maybe the mariachi band in Los Cabos can just play us all right out of our misery.
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