Monday, March 31, 2008


Once I read an interview of Mercan Dede, one of my favourite musicians. He likened life to ebru, and said that he throws the colours in water, and then lets the shape appear on paper.

We have no choice, anyway.

Today at work I was reading an article about the economic reforms in Ireland, and the article said that entrepreneurs develop an "internal locus of control" when the state plays only a small role in the economy. Property rights, free trade, less taxes, flexible labour markets, independent central banks. I wondered what "locus of control" was, and read about it on Wikipedia. Apparently, when you have "internal locus of control", you believe that you reach an outcome because of reasons that come from within you. The outcome you get depends on your ability (talent+effort), not factors external to you, the sum of which we call chance.

It was funny I saw this today, a couple of nights ago my father told me that what other people do or say should not affect me so much. I should stand solid and mind my business. Focus on what I can control, really. Because I won't be able to control other people, their characters, all the combinations they think, act and interact.

For I've been really desperate lately. People have told me it's the competition. It's the credit crunch. It's because I'm Turkish. Recruiters get piles of applications, they don't even look through them. Recruiters are so subjective. People say things, they change their minds. It's not me, really.

After all, it would be really sad if it was me after all this education! All this education should have increased my chances of getting somewhere, right? As I wait and get no response (some employers respond a month after you apply!) I started to think, what's the point in putting all those hours to prepare a good application when I don't even know they will read it! As I start to believe I'm not in control of the outcome, I just feel like not doing anything. Fatigue, powerless -ness.

Then I understood the point about economic freedoms and the feeling of being in control. If the outcome does not correspond to the talent and effort you put into the equation, if the government is taxing you or limiting your options (and hence rewards) with strict regulations or stupid policies, if your success depends on too many external factors that are not of your making, you don't feel like doing anything. And this reminded me of what I read about the agency of welfare recipients. If you continue to receive welfare however little effort you put into improving your life, you'll have no incentive to try harder. The goal of social policy should be to empower people by mitigating the risks they face.

The Wikipedia article suggests that there are cultural variations in whether people have "internal" or "external" locus of control, and compares the Japanese with Americans. Wrong comparison. One should compare the third world with the first world.

If you are from a developing country, (emerging market, as they say), you can easily die in an earthquake or hurricane or traffic accident. Tax inspectors will come and rob you. You will find yourself in an economic crisis because your government is stupid. You will find yourself in an economic crisis because some bankers from the first world are stupid. The party you voted for can be banned. People will hire their relatives, not you. You will have to get a visa to travel anywhere, although you are better qualified than half of the people in that first world country, including that embassy official. You can find yourself in a war because you had a dictator! More at risk simply because you were born there, you live there. Less incentives to try, to try to keep things in control, your life on track. More left to the forces of nature. Vicious circle.

In emerging markets, politics matter as much as the market forces, my big boss says.

By the way, will he hire me?

No comments: