Monday, September 1, 2008

Ghosts of Leaders Past

Let's reflect for a minute about ghosts. Ghosts of nations, of past administrations, that linger like spirits that haven't been able to find closure. And so, they stay, and haunt. Exhibit A: Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesia's ex-strongman. Just when you thought that era was pushing finally into the definitive past, it reappears again, as very much something of the present.

This time it involves the seizure of US$134 million, related to one of Tommy's companies and accusations of graft. The merits of the particular case will be left to the courts; he's been able to fend off such actions before, including defeating a corruption case earlier this year (even winning a countersuit).

The more interesting point is how long these cycles prove to be, whether in economies or in national politics. Look at the U.S. housing market, or the credit boom and crunch ... long on the way up, long on the way down. It takes years for nations to work significant events through their systems. So it is for Indonesia and the ghosts of dictators past, whose names and influences never seem to recede.

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