An erudite scholar, acclaimed author and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, British historian Niall Ferguson wears several hats. At the India Today Conclave, Ferguson spoke on "American Decline: Myth and Reality" . On the sidelines of the Conclave, Business Today's Chaitanya Kalbag, Rishi Joshi and Manu Kaushik caught up with Ferguson for a freewheeling interview. Edited excerpts:
On whether the US is in decline:
I think there are two issues which are quite separate. One is the rise of the East and the South and that is a good thing. And so any relative decline, if it just means India or China is growing rapidly, is not something Americans should complain about. The prosperity of China or that of India represents opportunities for the US. But the issue that is of greater concern is that the US has internal problems that it is not grappling with well, and these are impacting its long-term prospects. I think the biggest is probably the fiscal crisis because the cost of entitlements like social security and medicare is already greater than the cost of the entire military establishment. Until I see signs that American politicians are serious about the reform of medicare, social security and the tax system I will be pessimistic.
On the problems of the US and Indian democracies:
Washington was starting to look a lot like Delhi but to some degree Delhi is also starting to look like Washington. And that convergence tells you what is going wrong in the US more than what is going right in India. The problem of corruption in American politics is one that has to be addressed more openly. The reality is that the financial crisis exposed the dangerous levels of overlap between the financial institutions and political institutions to the point of near absurdity. It appeared as if the treasury department had become a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. I think there is a similarity there with India. I think the other critical similarity is that political vested interests in both systems stand in the way of structural reform.
|"The prosperity of China or that of India represents opportunities for the US."|