July  
2009

Vol 9 - No. 1


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COMMENT


 

The forty-niners
Why the US president has to reclaim his own dream!  

Ravichandran J.v.

It has only been over a century and a half old, this dream.  

A dream about great wealth, power and progress; a dream about getting rid of all those anxieties of life; a dream about leading a prosperous life with family; a dream about wielding power and flaunting it; a dream that would transform barren land into lush green meadows; a dream that would bring warmth to the loneliness of isolation; a dream that was, possibly, more fulfilling than any other pleasure in the world!  

Reading about those tales of the wild west, in the fictions of Zane Grey, Oliver Strange and Louis L’Amour and the likes, made me admire, in awe, at the tenacity of those rough, ill-kempt, horse riding pioneers, who spent their entire life hunting for gold and hunting each other down in their lust for more gold.

 

The rough landscape, snowy mountains, the Grand Canyon, the Colorado and the Great Plains - all made for a magnificent piece of painting that one can only visualize in one’s imagination! The tales were not merely about lust for gold or greedy acquisitions; they are tales of great intensity, ambition, perseverance, vision and above all, tremendous belief in oneself!

 

Around 1848, a European named John Sutter landed on the shores of California, with a gift of thousands of acres of land for military services rendered and with dreams of establishing an Empire, and set about his task of expansion. During one such daily chore, one of his men, James Marshall, discovered Gold and another Californian merchant, Sam Brannan, leaked it to the world because he wanted to make quick money by selling mining tools to gold rushers! 

 

In 9 weeks, it is said that Brannan had bought all mining tools in the region and had sold them for a profit of $36, 000!!

 

And here, starts that great American Dream.

 

It is a dream about realization of an opportunity, with a fairness that holds no inferiority to anyone; it is a dream about achievement in a land of abundance; it is a dream about fulfillment of ambitions!

 

The Great American Dream is probably one of the longest recounted, modern-day grandma tales of them all and now, they say, it has come to an end! Even President Barack Obama talks about “reclaiming it” as if someone has stolen it from America!

 

But, it is also this very dream that has brought about not only significant advancements in the world but also left us with some needless practices.  

 

Let me draw some parallels from this dream, its merchants and from history to demonstrate what they are and how they have affected the world.

 

In 1700, India, China and Europe had the biggest share of the world GDP rate at 22.6, 23.1 and 23.3 %, respectively. The USA had no figures to show then! The rate of growth from then on phenomenally changed - with the USA registering a consistent growth rate of over 1.5 % capping at 2.57 % by the year 1820. India, China and Europe were doing 0.26, 0.85 and 0.68 %, respectively!

 

By the year 1890, the picture had changed dramatically with Europe holding a share of 40.3 %, in world growth, with India at 11.0 %, China at 13.2 % and the USA emerging at 13.8 %! (Source: http://www.ggdc.net )

 

How did this happen? Let us move from statistics to history.

 

The USA became the first "new state" to emerge from the shackles of colonialism in mid-eighteenth century and, within a century, had marched into industrialization with production that equaled the combined volume produced by Great Britain, Germany and France!

 

It is around 1848, that immigrants flowed in millions and died in millions due to poor infrastructure, but the shine of gold invited more to a new world, regardless of all hardships!

 

Tales of Sam Brannan and the likes flew around the world and the dream of making it big in America looked the easiest occupation for most and millions,  from all over the world, pounded the land to make the quick buck!

 

Extracting itself from Civil Wars and the various strife associated with change, America went into the Gilded Age, “a term that author Mark Twain used to describe the period of the late nineteenth century when there had been a dramatic expansion of American industry”, Wikipedia.

 

It also brought with it more reforms, some good and some bad, with the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlawed monopolies in business, more noteworthy in our context. “Twain believed that this age was corrupted by such elements as land speculators, scandalous politics, and unethical business practices!” Wikipedia.

 

Back to today.

 

Do we see the parallel in the many companies' monopoly cases against Microsoft? Have some decisions, in the past decade, been based on age old policies that should have been redundant today?

 

Do we see the same “speculators” - the chief cause behind the recession that has hit the world today?

 

America has always had its tycoons and individual influences like Rockefeller or J.P. Morgan, leading the country with their vision and shaping its economy with their entrepreneurship and this has been the key to realizing the Dream. By breaking away from the tradition of American idealism and getting after Microsoft, the breaking of the dream begins to appear.

 

Back in time again.

 

Time has now moved into the "progressive era" for America and the country witnessed tremendous economic growth in the "roaring twenties" of the early 20th century but eventually the Great Wall Street crash brought the great country to a state of high recession. This state of economic turbulence saw the emergence of another "deal" dished out by politics! The all new deal was appropriately named "The New Deal"!

 

Past.

 

"I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms!” (Franklin Roosevelt).

 

Despite the fact that "The New Deal" was seemingly effective in that the recovery of the economy happened, there was some typical spending that we can identify and recognize as politically inclined. Government treasury distributed over $1.5 billion dollars to the World War I veterans!

 

Present.

 

"When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a 'New Deal', new jobs and a new sense of common purpose." Barack Obama, President-elect speech, about a 106 year old woman citizen of the US.

 

By referring to “The New Deal”, the president was probably showing the public how to interpret his own forthcoming proposal, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

 

The Chrysler bailout, in 1979, and possibly the forerunner to the current recovery plans of the US is another candidate for the breaking of the dream. Many believed, then, that the bailout challenged the American idealism. The recent bailouts of many US institutions, in the wake of the recession, is a cause for concern globally.

 

The “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” is another cause for concern for any country even if it is the internal concern of USA. Already Canada has been affected by the “US Protectionism” seen in the act and has levied back sanctions on American Civil Contracts in Canada. Of course, the US must protect its own interests but…

 

"...to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth...", Barack Obama, President-elect speech.

 

…requires the same pioneering spirit that started the dream. Is the spirit of the forty-niners still there? If not, well, it must be reclamation, as President Obama says, and not a renewal.  

_____________________________

 

Ravichandran Jv is working as a Group Manager with JK Technosoft Ltd, Noida, India. He is a certified internal ISO auditor and a Microsoft Certified Professional among other certifications. Other description of his professional career would include software developer and trainer on Information Technologies. His hobbies and interests include sports, theater, video photography and music. More details available at: http://www.geocities.com/jvravichandran . His Email id: jvravichandran@yahoo.com

 

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