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Thursday, October 8, 2009
Response #1: Ingrid Rasmussen
Hi Norman, interesting post. So interesting in fact that I'm going to write you a long email about it, with no real point other than the fact that your post made me think. And, in a happy coincidence, made me think about the three topics I got my degrees in: religion, international-relationy stuff, and economics. This would be discussion that goes better in person and with a glass of wine than over email but your post made for some good conversation starters. I'm not arguing for or against anything, just "thinking out loud", or, er, on email I guess.
I often wonder if I am Christian or not. Christian is itself a veeeeerrrrrrrrrryyyy loose term - the only thing that has to happen for someone to be Christian is to believe in Christ. No church, no attendance, no mass, no nothing. Just believe that Christ existed and you are Christian. Do I believe that Christ existed? I don't know. I think yes. But then I wonder do I really believe that that *specific* guy was Christ, or do I believe it in a more philosophical way, like I believe in the idea of him. I don't know. I think Christianity and the lessons that come with Christ teach us some very special lessons, but then again, most religions all teach the same lessons.
I would say, though, that in order for someone to be part of a religion it also means there has to be some way for them to get OUT of it. So I wonder about the discussion of Hinduism being something you can't divorce yourself from. Unlike, for example, where you were born (which you will never, ever be able to change, because it's something that just IS), religion is by many people believed to be something you come to of your own free will. So if there's no way for me to get out of it, can I really be part of a religion? or is it just a name to describe my ethnic background?
Then again, the line between religion, nationality, and ethnicity is a very fuzzy one. I came across an article the other day, actually it was pretty stupid, just about a TV show that's been showing called Mad Men (actually a pretty great show), but my point is that one of the topics discussed in the article was WHY this one character was of Norwegian background but was Roman Catholic. How could this be? Why would the writers put her in as Norwegian AND Roman Catholic? There must be some subplot, there must be some meaning to it... because, as we all know, Norwegians are generally NOT Roman Catholic. See? Nationality? Religion? Ethnicity? hard to separate them sometimes. So I guess when you're friend said you can't divorce yourself from Hinduism, it was more a general statement on the culture of Hinduism. The way, if we had to really choose a religion, we would end up saying we are Christian. So I guess we are Christian the way he may be Hindu, based more on culture than on a specific belief.
Anyway, that's it about religion. On to economics. I just have one question (and I don't disagree with what you were saying, there was just one jump in your chain of assumptions that I didn't understand). You said "So in fact, the 1.2 billion people in this country have a lot, in fact a ton of money. It's just not on credit. Which means it's not with the government." My question is, why does it mean it's "not with the government" just because it's not on credit? first, by "credit" do you mean loans, credit cards, etc, anything that allows you to buy a product without having all the money up front? second, if that's the case, I'm not sure why the government would then not be aware of those transactions. The government doesn't just track things bought and sold on credit - they track EVERYTHING. The only way they really wouldn't be able to track it at all would be if there was a huge black market (and thus things would not be taxed, and the government couldn't track it) but even in that case it wouldn't necessarily make the country look poor. Think of Sweden, for example, that has incredibly high taxes, which leads to larger black markets/ways to get around the taxes, but that doesn't necessarily make the government look poor, in fact, Sweden is very rich.
I'm also wondering what you mean by the "government being poor". The wealth of a nation is generally not measured by the amount of money a government has in the bank (US is hugely in debt but is still considered a very wealthy nation) but rather is usually based on a nation's GDP or GNP (Gross Domestic Product or Gross National Product). GDP is just a measure of all goods and services produced by a nation = how much does a country produce. Wikipedia (obviously) has a good explanation of it:
And actually if you do some research, India is not considered that poor of a country, as a whole. And if you compare it to the other countries in its group of BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRIC) I would put my money on India over Brazil and Russia. Brazil has a much more unequal distribution of wealth than India, and Russia... well I just don't trust it.
So, just my two cents worth on some interesting points you brought up. But I would be curious to know what exactly you guys meant by poverty, being a poor country, being a poor government, etc. I wonder if you meant that there are just a lot of people in India that fall below the poverty line, or if there is a more unequal distribution of wealth in India vs. for example, the US.