Friday, October 24, 2014

Long live markets and free to choose, from my Facebook page--by Kyi May Kaung

Long live markets & Free to Choose.

The first thing Dr Aye Hlaing and Dr Maung Shein taught us is what are markets.

Markets are not always a place.

They don't always have walls.

What do markets do?

They connect buyers and sellers.

The 2 profs went on to teach us about barter, a coincidence of wants and needs.

Then about demand and supply, goods and services, prices, money, government budgets, trade cycles.

Dr. Findlay taught Growth Models, International Trade Theory, Soviet Planning Experiences, among other topics.

His lectures prepared me for a lifetime of criticizing top down command economies.

I remember best his lectures on The Schoolmen, Duns Scotus, The Reformation, Martin Luther, the Sale of Indulgences by the Catholic Church --  Martin Luther nailing his points on the church door in Wittenberg.

Dr Shein  started us off with Lionel Robbins and a definition of Economics and a lecture on Jeremy Bentham.

(My brother told me of Bentham's corpse preserved in a glass cabinet in England).

I have been reading the essays contributed to our upcoming collection.

Only Daw Khin Khin Thein was one  or two years senior to me.  Therefore only she could remember and comment on the curriculum before 1962 and macro economics.

I am afraid my younger colleagues were not all in time for The Greats.

As I was saying to Sean Turnell a few weeks ago, in Burma things change a lot in 2 years, so we each had different experiences.

But I think, like that Social Science Lib downstairs set up by the Ford Foundation, initially by Paul Bixler,

which gave us all the essentials, incld several volumes of Havelock Ellis, which helped me at least prepare for my marriage

--the Economics staff led by Saya Aye Hlaing and Saya Findlay prepared us for understanding micro and macro economics, including business cycles.

Many basic principles they taught helped me in real life to prioritize, shop, budget well, choose a place to buy a home and live, certainly to recognize it was time to leave Burma.

I will never forget the first words Dr Findlay said to me when I went to see him at his office at Columbia Univ.

His office was still full of books and articles, his legs were still up on a low table, as when I used to take my MA thesis drafts to him, but somehow his legs seemed shorter in the USA.

And in NY I noticed for the first time that both Saya and my cousin Mongoose had Ango-Indian accents.

My cousin said in introducing me to his UN colleague, "My cousin sister."

Saya took me to have lunch at the faculty club.

A lavish display/buffet of  meats, salads and desserts were set out on a long table covered with a white cloth.

My eyes could barely take it all in, and I was too nervous to eat.

I felt very studentish, in my wind cheater and jeans.  I went into NY in those days on Greyhound buses.

"Free to Choose, Kyi May, Free to Choose," Saya said, waving his hand at all the food.

On my first trip Saya and Ma Ma Jane invited me and my guide Ko Myo Thant, then going to NYU, to dinner cooked by Ma Ma Jane.

"The gold beef curry full of onions" which later made its way into my poem, Eskimo Paradise, later anthologized in Norton's Language for a New Century,

my first taste of broccolli and oyster sauce

and lots of strawberries with cream, Ma Ma Jane saying, "Take more, take more."

Free to Choose of course was the famous TV program on ecos. by Milton and Rose Friedman.

I had bought myself a copy at a yard sale in Princeton, that my good friend AM took me to.

The problem in Burma is there is no free choice.

Copyright  KMKaung

This was all a long way from our coffee club at Inst of Ecos, where Ma Ma Gracy Khoo helped make the coffee, but after 1962, coffee and condensed milk got so expensive, out club went out of business.  Also the stink of clogged up toilets seeped into everything, and come into my consciousness whenever I am stressed.  I still remember with some kind of shock how puffy haired ugly woman took so many spoonfuls of the condensed milk greedily when I brought in a tin of condensed milk for my lunch treat when I was promoted to lecturer in the 70s.  And this a woman who boasted all the time of how she was related to the general himself, not to his wife Kitty.

No wonder my Immigration Lawyer in the USA said Saya Findlay wrote me an excellent recommendation letter, and said I was repulsed by the system in Burma.

And once when we went on a day trip village survey, I took 2 plain cakes in a wicker basket, but no one else brought anything.  Moreover, they wolfed down the cake before I had a chance to save something for Prof. U Tha Hto.

Life was hard, in the country now changing they say to "discipline flourishing guided democracy.

People often ask me if I will go back or come to visit.

I think what I hate most is how the army has remade things in its own image, ugly crude vulgar.

And what it has done to the People is unforgiveable.

THAT, the damage to the psyche, I don't think that is reversible.


Photos, Copyright KMKaung

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