On what does rest the strength of nations?
The answer: Importing the best and the brightest regardless of background, ethnicity, citizenship.
On what does rest the sustained failure of weak nations? The answer: Getting all the foreign has-beens and throwaways, those that can’t shine in their own land or cannot recapture their lost luster. Prime example is us, the sad sack of a nation called PH.
The two questions have been asked because a very interesting development has taken place in the US, where the Federal Reserve Board, or the Bangko Sentral of the US, is now considered the most important state institution. And the Fed Chair, this time Janet Yellen, the first female Fed chair in the Fed’s history, is now considered the most powerful figure in the US given the gridlocked nature of policy-making and the rigid ideological divide at the Supreme Court.
The Fed now wants to “import” Stanley Fisher, formerly head of the Israel’s Central Bank, as vice chair to Ms. Yellen. And political leaders, in a time of heightened gridlock and partisan divide, are not about to debate on the issue. Because of the singular brilliance and competence of Mr. Fisher .
Fisher, the former head of the Bank of Israel and a holder of dual citizenship, as vice chair of the Fed? Are not too many Americans with just one citizenship available for the post? Is not the economic Nobel under the virtual grip of American economists with expertise in monetary policy? Despite all these, not many are raising questions on why Fisher, who is 70, should get that job . Too good to be true. But true.
The possible recruitment of Stan Fisher, a professor at MIT when the MIT economics program was the best in the world (turning out Ben Bernanke , Mario Draghi and the likes) is not without precedent. On July 1 2013 a Canadian central banker , Mark Joseph Carney, was named governor of the Bank of England , England’s Bangko Sentral.
Yes, a Canadian is governor of England’s Central Bank. A Canadian who used to head the Bank of Canada, or Canada’s central bank.
As in the case of Mr. Fisher, Carney was chosen without quibble , without cries of importing Canadians, because of his pivotal role in helping Canada hurdle the worst financial crisis in contemporary history relatively unscathed.
Let us then turn our attention to the recent winners of Nobel prizes in chemistry, medicine etc. There is one common bind. Most of them were former citizens of other countries who obtained US citizenship. Born elsewhere but welcomed – and given room to thrive – by the US as citizens .
What we import
Ok, let us go back to our own dear PH. What do we import?
The most prodigious importer of supposed outside talent is not the monetary system. It has been pro basketball. Here is the question. What is the quality of 99 per cent of our basketball imports that we have adopted or have tempted with offers of citizenship?
Basketball fanatics may take issue with this but this is a fact. Billy Ray Bates, the sharecropper’s son and undisciplined talent who merited a lengthy mention in David Halberstam’s book “ The Breaks of the Game” as a member of the Portland Trailblazers team in the 1979-80 season, was the best talent to every play in the local pro ball league. No one ever came close to the sheet talent and athleticism of Bates.
Bates came to the PBA long past his NBA skills. He was dropped by Portland, the then Washington Bullets (now Wizards) and the Lakers. No team would sign him. He had nowhere to go. But as soon as he displayed his fading basketball smarts in the local hard court , he was named all the superlatives that the sportswriters can find , including the ridiculous and unbelievable “Black Superman.” At the NBA, Bates was not even considered fit to tie the shoelaces of the legitimate stars. Here, during his playing days, he was called “ superman.”
Let us go to the recruit who eventually stayed for good, Norman Black. Did Black get a short, tenure-neutral contract like the one Jeremy Lin got with the Knicks before Linsanity ? I can’t answer this but Black was definitely not NBA material. Here, he got lionized and he still gets lionized. There, he can’t sit on the NBA bench. Essentially, from the reckoning of the NBA, the lionized Black was underwhelming in his basketball skills.
Let us go to athletics. We had a prime import named David Bune….? He was supposed to banner the renaissance in athletics. The last news about this supposed great hope in athletics was a hurried flight to the airport to escape to the US with his starlet-wife. He was accused of duping people of their investment in a classy health club.
Well, he duped an entire athletics community. Or an entire nation perhaps.
Why can’t we get the likes of Carney and Fisher? Why are we audacious dupes in selecting the people we import?
The answer, the straightforward one? We are still, sadly, a nation of trivial pursuits.