Anne Macquarie: What do we do now that our future has been stolen?
We just got back from a trip to Nepal and Tibet. What a time to be out of the country ” we go away for a month and the world financial system collapses.
Right before we left Kathmandu last Tuesday I read an article in the Himalayan Times newspaper about the frightening security situation on the Nepal/India border. Apparently “dacoits” come freely across the porous border from India to Nepal every night and rob small landowners. “What’s a dacoit?” I asked. A friend told me dacoit is a Hindi word for armed robber. They are dangerous people ” one famous Indian dacoit, Veerappan, has committed an estimated 120 murders and over a thousand robberies.
It gives some perspective on financial security to compare our situation ” we’ve lost a quarter of our retirement savings in a month ” to this: “Load up the kids, livestock, and everything else we own dear, we’re over the border for the night so we don’t get murdered in our beds.”
But there are similarities too. It is one of the most basic roles of government to protect its citizens from lawless thieves ” “dacoits” of all kinds. Nepal clearly isn’t doing such a good job if families feel the need to hide on the other side of the border every single night. But is our government doing so very much better?
For most of the last 28 years we’ve had administrations in Washington that don’t believe in the regulatory role of government, and that have done everything they can to dismantle regulatory systems in health and safety, the environment, and finance ” and at the same time to dismantle traditional pension plans, replacing them with various opportunities to gamble … er, invest in the stock market. Most of us middle-aged, middle-class Americans bought right into it ” we had to, if we wanted to retire.
Well now the chickens are coming home to roost (if they don’t get stolen first). All that retirement money in inadequately regulated markets? Vanishing pretty quickly. And after almost three decades of “hands-off” government, the Bush administration is now forced to invest taxpayers’ money in shoring up our biggest banks. Sounds like something that uber-Democrat FDR would have done ” in fact, he did do it.
Americans are angry and scared and we have a right to be ” our future and that of our children has been stolen by the “dacoits” of finance ” and by a government that abetted or ignored their machinations.
So what do we do? Again a comparison to Nepal and its people might be enlightening. Nepal has a traditional culture built around families and family relationships. People take care of their own because there is no one else to do it. I wonder, in the coming severe recession (or depression?) whether Americans might do well to re-learn some of the traditional values that Nepalis never lost: Take care of every member of your family, don’t spend what you don’t have, make do or do without, and make sure you keep some livestock in the back yard for the coming hard times!
Anne Macquarie, a private-sector urban planner, is a 19-year resident of Carson City.