Regarding the opinion piece “For the 2020s, it’s time to go back to the drawing board” in the Jan. 6 edition, “the start of a new decade” is indeed “an occasion for pause and reflection.” The questions that writer Kaushik Basu asks about the increasing inequalities and fractiousness of our democracies and globalizing economies do require new answers. He states, “It is during these periods that one must rethink the laws of social sciences, the basis of our behavior and the balance of our choices;” and that “… we must … reject complacency and take stock of our own predicament.” Indeed so.

Whatever the merits of the quoted Harold Hotelling, I think the reason behind his theory that opposing political parties have a propensity to drift together and become indistinguishable, and behind Basu’s mention of the contradictory fractiousness and inequality now, in what have been democracies and a globalizing economy, is unstated in the article, if not avoided by them.

Basu does touch on the compelling reason when he finally says “… all citizens of this planet have a role to play” and “… will require looking beyond immediate self-interest.” It has been this singular human focus of “self-interest” — consumption, desires, entertainments, conveniences, mass productions, myriad infrastructures and security — that once brought prospering peoples together in Hotelling’s bipartisan blending; and the same which gradually set us apart, made each of our demands and beliefs unilateral, squandered community and pitted us against each other.

In going back to the drawing board, we might answer this: Why have we allowed this all-consuming self-interest to go so far?


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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