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Friday, October 15, 2010

The "Floundering Secret" of the West's Success

In Truth and Transformation, Indian Christian author Vishal Mangalwadi relates an experience he had in Amsterdam.

He wanted to buy a bus day-pass from a machine. But the instructions on the machine were in Dutch. Two young women visiting from America were standing nearby, and Dr. Mangalwadi asked how to get tickets from the machine.

The women said they had been riding around Amsterdam for a week, and no one checked for tickets. "Why do you want to get tickets?" they asked.

Mangalwadi writes: "Their shamelessness shocked me more than their immorality. They represented the new generation, liberated from 'arbitrary' and 'oppressive' religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as 'You shall not steal.'

'It is wonderful,' I said to them, 'that there are enough commuters who pay so that the system can carry some who don't. Once your schools succeed in producing enough clever commuters, your country will catch up with mine [India]. You will have to have ticket inspectors on every bus and have super-inspectors to spy on the inspectors. Everyone will then have to pay more. But corruption won't remain confined to the consumers; it is a cancer that will infect politicians, bureaucrats, managers, operators, and the maintenance staff. They will take kickbacks, commissions, and bribes to use substandard parts and service. Soon your public transport will resemble ours: frequent breakdowns will slow down not only the transport system but also your roads, efficiency and economy.'"

Mangalwadi says morality is the "floundering secret" of the West's success.

Our economic system rests upon trust. Trust that people at the other end of a business deal will be honest, will pay, or deliver quality goods, and will not misappropriate funds, bribe or extort.

"Where did this morality come from?" asks Mangalwadi. "Why isn't my society [in India] equally trustworthy?"

Mangalwadi maintains that the kind of trust which made the West successful was possible only because a preponderance of people accepted the Judeo-Christian belief that there is a rational, personal God above us all, who sees all, and has clarified moral standards applying equally to everyone (such as "You shall not steal"). Living in accordance with His standards is "right," and acting against them is "wrong."

It isn't rocket science.

But today's economic pundits and political experts no longer talk about this "secret."


To be continued.

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