As they say:The world is not being globalized, it is becoming Americanized. The USA has tremendous influence on the world. Most of the new ideas come from US and the rest of world blindly accepts it without any second thoughts. Such is the power of America. Fortunately, most of these are wonderful ideas and the world has benefited by pursuing these. There are plenty of such examples: from Freedom of expression to Internet, and from Free Market Economics to Conveyor belt Batch process. Largely american ideas have shaped the world for a better place to live in.
But today I want to discuss few 'American' ideas which went terribly wrong. The US as well as the 'Americanized' world need to take immediate steps to correct them to see a better tomorrow. And unfortunately we have not seen any radical action or paradigm shift in the mindset of the americanized world to correct those mistakes.
Let me start with the great American Greed. Some say that greed is good and for progress we need greedy people. Greed motivate people to start new things, take risks and make large breakthroughs. But I feel there is a very fine line between ambition and greed. Ambition is working hard and trying new things for a better future. But greed is a mindset to make fast and easy money without much hardwork. In most of the times greed is associated with dishonesty and fraud which harms majority of the stakeholders. Social cost of greed is huge and today's subprime and credit crisis are example of that. The americanized world need to change its mindset. From peer pressure, rat race and greed to have enormous wealth we need to focus on more phylosophical themes of life like: Peace, Honesty, Satisfaction, Living in Present, enjoying small beauties of life, harmony with people and nature etc. 'There is enough for every man's need but not greed.' Once people can differentiate the need from the greed we can have a more sustainable and inclusive prosperity.
The second is the culture of wasting resources and living in excesses. Byproduct of greed, american lifestyle is an example of living beyond the means. Here are some statistics:In the US alone $48 Billion worth of food is wasted anually, American Credit Card Debt is valued at $950 billion, as per the 2003 data 291 million americans(out of which only 196 million are drivers) drive 231 million cars(more car per driver), In the US alone the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened or read, equaling four million tons of waste. This Economic downturn may proove to be a boom in disguise if this can change the wasteful spending oriented mindset of americans and create a culture of living within the means. If the Obama government takes the energy issue seriously we can see more Green energy sources. At the same time we need to create a culture of public transportation and car pooling simply because those are much efficient systems from energy use perspective and having less environmental impact.
Third culture which needs dramatic change is lack of effective oversight and stopping lobby powers to misuse the laws. Instead of one of the best tracking and policing system in the world we have seen many big oversight failures in the US: Financial Frauds from Bernie Madoff, irresponsible mortgage lending and derivative trading by Wall street. Also in everyday life we see so many crimes starting from prostitution to drugs and Internet crimes to detainee abuse. Narrow mindset of different lobby powers affect the proper growth of the society. We waste huge amount of money in agriculture subsidy; car lobbyists have stopped the growth of public railways and transport system; we have a nexus of insurance companies and medical practitioners creating a inflated healthcare cost; our budget is grossly misused in ineffective programs etc.
Let's think about the solution. Let's accept that we don't have any easy solutions and we can't fix all these in one day or one month. But we need to have a vision and the top leadership need to honestly pursue these dreams. We need to change acts and laws and plan big for future. We need constant communication to the people for chaging their mindset(BTW Obama did a good job in last presidential address). We need to think beyond short term political popularity and take hard decisions. From theoritical perspective these issues look simple because we know the solutions. But in practice actionizing the solutions are challenging because these involve people and changing people's mindset is a tough job. Unfortunately we don't have a plan B.