One of my bugbears is historians who draw lines through history and present it as a linear narrative. As an example, the Treaty of Versailles, lead to the Weimar Republic whose collapse was inevitable which lead to the rise of Hitler which leads to the Second World War and all its associated horrors. It is s nice neat linear narrative with the point of origin being the Treaty of Versailles, therefore the Second World War was a direct result of the end of the First World War. However, it strikes me that people are messy and that history is somewhat confused and seems to turn on small points or an accumulation of small points.
This is also my view of economic history, economic historians love stories which ignore the complex and chaotic nature of reality. For example, a multitude of reasons are put forward for the 1987 crash ranging from program trading through to US budget deficits through to bonds being more attractive. As someone who was there it just seemed to happen, one Thursday the market was doing its thing, albeit in a pullback from its all-time high and then on Friday it was stuffed and on Monday it was totally stuffed. From my perspective, it is difficult to understand how all these features instantly reconciled in traders minds inside a single trading session. It is, however, possible that they were part of a growing crescendo of features that all acted in concert, not as a single narrative but rather as a chorus of events.
Which brings me to the point of this current little rant. The first part of the 21st century has seen the rise of China and at the turn of the century, it was touted that this would be China and India’s century. So far it has been all China which in some ways has been surprising given the amount of brainpower that India produces in the form of technical graduates. Despite this India seems sluggish compared to China and this has been a source of interest for me. Admittedly India still struggles with its attitude to women and its caste system thereby immediately reducing its available talent pool. It also like a lot of current democracies at present seems to have a surplus of stupid old men in charge. So we have a panoply of reasons as to why India might be struggling as opposed to a single root cause and I am going to add my own to this in the form of the following snip.
You read that correctly the Indian Governments response to coronavirus is to recommend homeopathy – this is despite the enormous intellectual horsepower the country possesses. I think we are back to the point I made about stupid old men and this certainly ranks with some of the things that come out of the mouths of the old men who run this country.
However, upon reading it I did pause and wonder what stupid things I am doing that sit in the bucket of biases that dictate my trajectory through life and whether there is anything I can do to recognise them. This is the hard part because we cannot look back at our decisions with untainted wisdom – everything we do is coloured by the lens of our experiences and our perceptions. What happens to us may appear to be obvious to whoever narrates our eulogy but by then it’s a little late for course correction.