Monday, September 29, 2008

Watching crisis from abroad

Last night I told an American friend living in Washington, DC that the US has the most interesting news nowadays. Dramatic political campaigns. Economic crises. It reminds me of the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

Everything is connected, so just because my involvement in the stock market is limited to one very small 401k doesn't mean that the US financial crisis doesn't affect me here, thousands of miles away. Sometimes it's nice to cling to the illusory feeling of isolation. Earlier this month when I spent a couple of weeks in the small mountain city of Zaqatala, it was easy to feel that the USA could implode and the Azerbaijani cattle would continue to saunter slowly through the streets, the nut trees would continue to bear their harvest, the clouds would continue to dance over the mountain. And, of course, they certainly would. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't be touched by such a crisis.

I was reading the post-vote commentary this morning, and one comment stuck with me. A majority of Republican representatives voted against the economic rescue plan, displaying their independence from an administration that begs for their support. Where - the commentator asked - was this independence six years ago, when the Bush administration was drumming up the case for war? In that case, independence would certainly have been a good thing. Perhaps if the Congress had not been so servile, we would not be mired in the aftermath of a tragically failed foreign policy. Now - members of the House of Representatives - especially Republicans -demonstrate their independence - and risk causing even greater harm to the economy. Very perverse.

(I see plenty of problems with the bailout bill - but I think there is a strong case to be made that the cost of inaction outweighs the demerits of the legislation.)