We have, with all grace and gratitude, mistaken it as a Christmas gift. The simple folks that we are, intent on always calling a spade a spade and never looking a gift horse in the mouth, we have failed to see it as a present irritatingly loaded with conditions and contradictions.
We rail and rant, and justifiably so, against the bias in the Western media. Yet when the Time's names "The Chinese Worker" as a runner-up for its Person of the Year award we break into song and dance. We sing paeans of praise for our workers, who have not figured in our cozy scheme of things for a couple of decades. Journalists, commentators and sundry other experts flood the traditional media outlets as well as the web with their esteemed views. Most of them, though, seem to have realized only now that hundreds of millions of our toiling brothers and sisters suffer in silence, while we, the privileged few, make hay in the sun that shines on the power generated by their sweat and blood.
It's an irony. It's an irony because we should be mourning, not celebrating, the Time's announcement. It's an irony because the Time has elevated Ben Bernanke above "The Chinese Worker".
The US Federal Reserve chairman has been crowned the most influential Person of the Year despite believing the artificial excesses of the past decade to be normality. True, he has managed to prevent the next Great Depression for now. But what happens after the last overdose of the US government's financial stimulus has been administered?
It's a travesty of natural and human justice to even think Bernanke has had a greater role to play than China's or, for that matter, any other country's workers in keeping the global economy afloat. More than anything else, it is the backbreaking labor of Chinese workers that has allowed Americans to live beyond their means and dreams. Bernanke's infinite capacity to print money has helped, though. Printing more money, in all honesty, is what the US dollar as the world's reserve currency is all about. At least that's what economics tells us.
But economics, in theory and practice, has its incongruities. Theoretically, an artificial boom should be corrected with a recession. The rules of laissez-faire economy (not classical Keynesian) tell us that the government should not interfere with the market. The last national economic mastermind to win the Time's award did exactly the opposite. As an ardent supporter of the New Deal, Brig-Gen Hugh Johnson was selected by US president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 to oversee the National Recovery Administration (NRA). A year later, the NRA was floundering because of its rigid rules. Roosevelt removed Johnson. And in 1935, the Supreme Court declared the entire scheme unconstitutional.
Bernanke seems to be following in Johnson's footsteps. And it doesn't look like he can bring down the monetary stimulus without reversing the flow of the economy and preventing inflation from rising. Which means that instead of taking the US toward another Great Depression, he may lead it into hyperinflation.
Compare and contrast Bernanke's achievements with that of "The Chinese Worker" to see why being relegated to second best after Bernanke is disgraceful for our workers.
The Bernankes, with their brilliant and not-so brilliant ideas, have come and gone. But the workers have always been here and will always be there. They - not the Bernankes - are the real heroes, as are the farmers who have been feeding us.
It's an irony then to gloat over Time's dubious Christmas gift.