Thursday, May 24, 2007

The New Golden Age, by Ravi Batra

This unabridged audio book came from the Alachua County Public Library on 9 CDs, and was read by Brian Emerson.

If you make enough predictions, you are bound to get some right. Both psychics and economists count on this, and Professor Batra is no different. In fact, Batra was the winner of an Ig Nobel prize in 1993. He was described as a, "shrewd economist and best-selling author of "The Great Depression of 1990" ($17.95) and
"Surviving the Great Depression of 1990" ($18.95), for selling enough copies of his books to single-handedly prevent worldwide economic collapse."

When Batra is not delivering an anti-Bush and Cheney rant, this idealistic Hindu slant on history is actually quite provocative and entertaining. It is mostly an expansion on P.R. Sarkar's theories of social evolution. These theories propose that societies are comprised of 4 social classes: laborers, intellectuals, warriors, and acquisitors (capitalists). The intellectuals, warriors and acquisitors take turns dominating and ruling society as the laborers cast their lots with each group in a predictable progression. The domination of the rich acquisitors always ends in massive corruption, immorality and poverty. The warriors and labor take their country back, establish order, fairness and traditional family. Eventually, they give way to the intellectuals, who are better at governing than conquering. Then they give way to the business people, who are better at expanding opportunity. When not enough people are taking advantage of opportunity, and those who are live like kings, the warriors again ascend to restore justice. At least, that is theme of this book.

It is easy to get caught up in Batra's worldview because he draws on so much history to demonstrate his thesis. And much of that history comes from beyond Western Civilization, which raises the level of fascination. He tells us that there are frequent examples of Golden Ages, which he always assigns to the time after the evil rich are dethroned. Of course, these Golden Ages come on two-edged swords. It is not uncommon for them to have rather puritanical backlashes against pornography, prostitution, and homosexuality. The poor are not just sick of the injustices of the rich. The perversion and vulgarity of the age usually suffers as well. The recent squeeze on talk radio hosts Don Imus and Opie & Anthony were not led by the Religious Right, but by civil libertarians devouring their own kind. Apparently, a lot of people have limits after all.

Like a good economist, who has been burned by his own lack of judgment in the past, Batra demonstrates that there are also escape clauses for the social cycle and all that comes with it. After venting his spleen on Bush and the Iraq War, he actually dares to say that the rest of the world needs to pitch in and help because America has saved the world's bacon before, and that failing to do so could be a big mistake! He even intimates that history may vindicate Bush in the end.

In the last chapter, he also does a little back-pedaling on the meaning of the Golden Age. But I can forgive him because I always grade economists on a curve. In spite of its sometimes puzzling contradictions and omissions, I gave this book 3 stars for having much to offer any discussion on national and international affairs. There is something to offend everyone, and to enlighten as well.

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