Hello and good day!
A week ago, a young Turkish couple came into one of our chocolate shops. The husband spoke a little English and the wife spoke none at all. They had just arrived in the United States one month earlier.
"We like this country," said the husband. "We come to Los Angeles. Now we here. Every place different. Many countries in one country," he said.
I asked what city they are from in Turkey, and he said Istanbul. I looked it up and Istanbul has a population of around 16 million people.
To put that in perspective, New York City has around 8 million. Los Angeles has around 4 million. Chicago has around 3 million. And Houston has around 2 million.
The US has four times the population of Turkey, 340 million versus 85 million.
Think about that. There are a lot more people in the US than in Turkey, but our biggest cities are much smaller than their biggest city.
It is the same in Peru. Peru only has a population of about 35 million but their biggest city, Lima, has a population of 11 million.
I wasn't able to have a deep conversation with my friend because his English wasn't strong enough.
But I recently had a conversation with a different Turkish customer. I've written about this before, but to restate it, she mentioned how much she loves Turkey. She loves the people and the music and the food and the countryside and the culture.
But she doesn't want to go back, because she doesn't feel it is a free country. She doesn't like that the same person has been ruling the country for so long.
Over the weekend, we had an Indian gentleman and his grown son in the store. They are regular customers who come in often. On their last visit, they bought a suitcase full of chocolate to take on a recent trip to India. They were happy to report, and we were happy to hear, that their family enjoyed our products very much.
From Peru to Switzerland to Issaquah, WA to India. Unbelievable.
Our conversation veered into politics and the father mentioned that India currently has a very good prime minister. I know nothing about Indian politics, so I can't offer an opinion.
The man and his son both seemed adamant, and they both struck me as intelligent people, so I can't help but assume that there is some real basis for their assessment. They mentioned that economic growth has been strong, and that political unrest is currently under control. Apparently, the current prime minister is a devout Hindu who leans Hindu in his politics. However, he has proved to be such an upstanding person and is doing such a good job, that other religious populations have also accepted him.
I'm just reporting what I heard. I'm not sure if it is true.
Then my brother Brian was able to jump in and talk about Peruvian politics. He mentioned that Peru has had something like 5 presidents in 6 years. A study was recently done in Peru showing that around 90% of the entire government apparatus in Peru is corrupt, from national on down to local levels.
Almost every president for the last 50 years in Peru has been caught up in some type of corruption scandal.
And when that happens, people out in the countryside protest by shutting down mountain passes. Mountain passes allow commerce to flow from the coast to the interior and vice versa. It is how we get cacao out of the jungle to the coast for export.
This form of protest is very destructive to the economy, and it goes on all the time in Peru because people get so sick of hearing about government corruption.
When Brian finished explaining, the Indian son chimed in. "That is how it is in India too," he said. "But for now, things are calm." Then he said something very astute.
"Everything is controlled by the national government in India. When there is corruption at the top, everybody feels it. But here you have states and counties and cities. You hear about political scandal on the news here, but you rarely feel it directly. That is why there are fewer debilitating protests. Power is spread out."
Very good. Very, very good.
Brian confirmed that this is the case in Peru as well. All government functions are controlled by the national government in Lima. When presidents are being impeached over and over again, and a corrupt apparatus controls all public utilities and government services, crap flows downhill and citizens feel it in their everyday lives.
Here in the United States, I dang near can't remember a president with bipartisan support. One side has been calling the other side devil worshippers for as long as I can remember.
By the way, this is nothing new in the United States. In fact, political rhetoric is actually tamer now than during many previous times in American history. There are several instances when congressmen have beaten political rivals into a bloody mess during an active session of congress, sometimes with a cane or gavel.
And yet, the system endures, and if you are being honest, things have continued to operate relatively smoothly on the whole.
You can always find things to complain about, but compared to a place like Peru, our roads are well maintained, our utilities are well run, there aren't many protests that shut down the country's economy, the schools are mostly open, and there is clean drinking water almost across the board. This is the result of our federalist system. "Many countries," as my Turkish friend put it.
You can see it in the statistics. If one city stops working, you move to a new one that operates more to your liking. If a certain state government doesn't share you moral or political beliefs, you can move. The federal government is there as an overarching structure, but it doesn't run everything. People spread out and there are many options.
In Peru or Turkey, if you want to leave your hometown, you are very likely to move to the capital city, the seat of power and resources.
Lastly, we don't necessarily need a saint running the show in the United States.
As my Indian friend pointed out, things are harmonious in India for the moment, because a man of impeccable honor is in charge. The system needs a pure soul to keep it from falling apart.
Unfortunately, power and purity rarely go together.
In the United States, half the country can flat out hate a president, but things don't totally go off the rails. Big shocks don't crumble the system. That is a very solid design in my opinion.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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