Sol Sanders,

A weeklong electronic journal.
July 23 1998 3:30 AM

Sol Sanders,

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       I woke up this morning to a blizzard of faxes and e-mails. The six hour lag of our Hawaii Aleutian Time over Eastern Time means that my friends in New York and elsewhere on the East Coast have almost a whole day's jump on me. Then there was the fax from Taipei. Thank God for that old time wheel that AT&T used to give out in its monopoly heyday: You set your local time against it, and it shows you the time in any part of the world.
       And there was a bevy of faxes from a colleague and collaborator in Houston who has all the answers.
       But it did again set off musings about what the incredible advances in communications mean. Here I am, on a relatively remote island in the mid-Pacific. But, if anything, the world is too much with me. E-mail has given a whole new life to my correspondence. I wouldn't call it Chestertonian. But it does make it easy to keep up with friends and colleagues.
       Alas! So many of my contemporaries spurn it, refusing to believe anything good can come of electronics in whatever guise. To their argument that most of what is on the Web is junk, my response is simple: I have lived a span that saw the introduction of the telephone (we didn't have one in our house or at my father's business when I was a child), radio, television, and now the Web. The majority of what has moved on all those earlier arteries has been junk. But that doesn't vitiate the miraculous quality of their utility.
       Most of the material this morning concerned China. I am feeling pretty cocky that my calculations about the disaster overtaking the mainland economy are being vindicated. I got hysterical last fall listening to the learned TV and radio commentators announcing that the Asian financial crisis would not affect the United States. I am almost traumatized by the hubris in so much that American financial community representatives and politicians are saying about the present American boom. (A government surplus for 10 years out indeed!) No, Elizabeth, I do not think we have licked the business cycle.
       Yesterday I listened on the kitchen radio to a famous economist for one of the brokerage houses presenting a tightly argued case (with statistics, of course) for why the American bull markets will continue indefinitely. But when she spoke of Japan and China, about which I know a little, she was way off the mark. I am afraid I thought it was telling.
       I don't know whether it is the hubris or the scientism (a=b, b=c, therefore c=a is, after all, the Aristotelian distortion that much of the world does not share with us) that worries me more. One thing is clear: Our young MBAs, moving millions at a flick of an electronic key, are not schooled in history and do not have the kind of cultural submersion that made the denizens of the investment houses of old (however great their mistakes) among the more sophisticated members of our society. We can't but suffer for that.

Sol Sanders is a visiting fellow at the East/West Center. He was the international outlook editor of Business Week, and South Asian editor of U.S. News & World Report. His most recent book is Mitsubishi Electric: The Challenge of Globalization. He lives in Kamuela, Hawaii.

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