ಪೂರ್ವ-ಪಶ್ಚಿಮಕ್ಕೆ ಬುದ್ಧನ ಬೆಸುಗೆ! (ಪ್ರತಿಕ್ರಿಯೆ)
I read with interest Mr.M.R.Dattatris overly broad attack (http://www.thatskannada.com/column/datta/2004/160104buddha.html) on Capitalism and the responses it has generated. I congratulate and thank him for bringing this important and timely topic up even though I disagree with him.
I discussed this article with two of my friends: one a Brahmin from Bangalore settled in US and the other belonging to a backward caste from Andhra Pradesh currently in Bangalore. Both of them had almost identical reactions. "Thank God for Capitalism!" They got their jobs with no one asking them about their caste, religion, language or even nationality. The capitalists who have employed these two do not care about such attributes. All they are interested in is "Profit". And it is perfectly fine to my friends.
Mr.Dattatri paraphrases Buddha to emphasize that "Greed is not good". However, greed need not always be bad. The greed of Bill Gates (and many other capitalists) has created wealth and livelihood for many thousands. It can even be argued that the greed of Bill Gates has helped more Indians than the piety of soon to be sainted Mother Theresa.
I respect Nehru greatly. I can very well understand why he a student of Fabian Socialism chose the model he chose at that time. But the Public Sector mess that was created during that time has set India back by a few decades in terms of economic development. In addition to the "stink" of Public Sector, it also imposed brakes on innovation and new business development by any one other than a handful of government favored families like Tatas, Birlas, Godrejs etc.
Mr.Dattatri cites the plight of present day Argentina to illustrate the failure of Capitalism. My question to him is Why not cite Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and others? By the way, if Capitalism were so bad for its practitioners, why is U.S. still enjoying supremacy even after practicing it for two hundred plus years?! (The reasons for Argentinas current day misery are many and complex. Blaming it on Capitalism is easy, simplistic and wrong. By the way how is Argentina that is "lying on the street shivering in cold and soaked in rain" doing? Here are some statistics to ponder
India / Argentina
Life Expectancy/ 63 Years 74 Years
Infant Mortality at birth/1000 67 16
Infant Mortality under 5 Yrs/1000 93 19
Child Immunization 56% 94%
Adult Illiteracy 42% 3.1%
Based on above statistics, was Capitalism a failure in Argentina?)
Mr.Dattatri writes that in America "the rich are getting richer". Even though he does not write that the "poor are getting poorer", his analogy of flowing water implies that. However, in my opinion the better analogy would be that of a rising tide. A rising tides lift all boats both small and huge. Just like that, in Capitalistic economic expansions both rich and poor profit. The history of America is a testament to that fact. Even though the gap between the rich and poor may have increased, the conditions of both have improved.
It is true that Herbert Spencer coined the term "Survival of the fittest" (in addition to popularizing the theory of evolution). However, he was more of a sociologist, philosopher and biologist than an economist (even though he worked for The Economist magazine for some time). When he used the term "Survival of the fittest" it was in his book The Principles of Biology and in reference to Charles Darwins theory of natural selection.
I also have to disagree with Mr.Dattatris extremely cynical assertion that the field of economics is exerting all its energy in trying to find ways to "enslave the hungry". There are many economists including Prof. Amartya Sen who are doing research and studies in many different facets of the economics theory. Rhetoric like "enslaving the hungry" may play very well with some readers. But it is plain wrong and an insult to many fine women and men who are engaging in the field of economics.
It is also not true that all of the recent Nobel laureates ("except Amartya Sen") in economics are "Free Market", "Market Psychology" scholars interested only in "increasing productivity" and "doubling the profits". Since 1990, twenty six people have received Nobel Prize in economics. Most of them did no direct research in "Market Psychology" or "productivity" or "profit doubling" issues.
I do not understand Mr.Dattatris objection about Mexico and Brazil exporting automobiles to US or more importantly India exporting software or even software developers. No one is forcing any one to do any thing. If US has a market for these things, there is nothing wrong with that. If Mexico, Brazil and India supply the goods, it is no grave fault. His fear that India will be left with dwindling supply of biologists, economists, historians, linguists, astronomers etc. is baseless. Japan, Korea and others have been exporting goods to US for many decades and in much larger scales. Japan with a population of 127 million people exported $400 billion worth of goods and services where as India with 1 billion population exported just about $50 billion worth of goods and services. If export jobs are so bad, Japan (with a much bigger export and a much smaller population) should have no linguists, astronomers, biologists etc. Is that the case?
The fact is, across the globe, the countries where export of manufactured, value-added goods except export of natural resources like Oil, minerals etc -- play a significant part of the economy enjoy a higher quality of life than those countries that trade the least. Economic history shows that increased economic activities eventually lead to growth in other sectors that are not tied directly to the exports.
Calling computer professionals "coolies" is not new or original. But it is still offensive. Comparing American companies to slave traders is doubly wrong. Not only it unjustly insults these companies, it also trivializes the tragedy of slavery.
Mr.Dattatri calls "Globalization" is a technique (and Internet and media the tools) for Capitalists to spread the culture of consumerism and profiteering across the globe. Since he does not elaborate on this, it is very difficult to respond to such an assertion. Is Globalization bad? Yes, for some. Should we fight to stop it? No. More importantly, can we stop it? I do not think so. Unless India erects physical, cultural and economic barriers all over the place and enters a cocoon, it is impossible to stop the forces of Globalization. Globalization is a process that is happening through out human history. Internet, modern telecom facilities, supersonic jets and huge naval container ships have tremendously increased the speed of this process. WTO, GATT and various other treaties are just (but important) efforts to formalize this unstoppable process. It is an irony that while the leaders of a (so called) Communist country like China tried so hard to be part of these global trade treaties, some Indians are railing against them.
Mr.Dattatri mentions "Basmati". I wish he had elaborated on this issue a little more. In spite of an almost hysterical hue and cry about RiceTecs (the American company that applied for patents) efforts in applying for US trade marks for the strains of rice it derived, many people still do not understand what was at stake for India and Indian farmers. The main thing at stake was the name "Basmati". It would have put restriction on Indian farmers from selling their rice in US by that name. Hence, the people who should be concerned about Basmati patent issue should be the ones who want to export goods to US and enjoy the global trading opportunities. It does not make much sense for anti-Globalization crowd to invoke this issue.
Mr.Dattatris characterization of World Bank loans is also not entirely right. The World Bank loans are almost always tied to some developmental projects and are monitored very strictly. If he believes this money is being spent wastefully and that too on consumer goods, he should have provided some data to justify his assertions. (It is also interesting that the people who oppose the World Bank loans come from both the left and right wing of the political spectrum. On one side, Indian Communists denounce these loans and on the other American right wing organizations like Heritage Foundation despise them.)
Mr.Dattatri writes about the "American Dream". The most important part of "American Dream" is individual liberty enshrined in the American constitution. This liberty includes economic freedom i.e. the freedom for individuals to engage in economic activities with minimal intervention from the State. American Capitalism is entirely rooted in this freedom. One can not separate American Capitalism from American Dream without diminishing it. This freedom is also one of the fundamental reasons why American innovators and idea-men from Edison, Bell, Ford onwards to Steve Jobs and others of recent times have been able to bring to market their inventions and ideas quickly and yes even make profits. (By the way "profit" is not a four letter word) This is also the reason America has been a beacon and incubator of ideas for so many years and for so many innovative people from around the globe. If any one has any doubts about the value of this freedom, one should ask men like Mr.Narayana Murthy or Mr.B.G.Mahesh the entrepreneur behind this web portal what they think about it.
Early on in his article, defending the quasi-Socialistic model of Nehru, Mr.Dattatri deplores "vacating our homes fearing the stink of a dead rat". The implication being we should stick with that system while throwing the "dead rat" away. The problem is, these public sector industries were not rats; they were the pillars of our economy. Should we stay in a house where the pillars are hollow, crumbling and can come crashing down any moment?
By the way, if we should give the old economic model another chance with some modifications; why not embrace Capitalism with some changes? India tried the Nehruvian model for about four and a half decades and is now taking a few early steps in the direction of Capitalism. It is quite understandable that many people are anxious and fearful of the consequences of such a major change in the direction. Globalization, Capitalism, Free Market System pose huge and complex challenges along with providing major opportunities and benefits. The questions for every country including India and US are how to tackle these challenges and take advantage of the new opportunities. I do not claim to know the answers to these questions. (How about putting pressure on the government to enforce the laws that are already in the books to tackle corporate corruption and environmental pollution? If the laws are not adequate, how about coming up with new ones?!)
Compared to fifteen plus years back when I graduated, I see among todays youngsters a palpable sense of hope, optimism and a confidence about their own as well as Indias future. Where as most then aspired for "permanent" public sector jobs, today there are many youngsters who want to start their own companies. One can clearly see a spirit of entrepreneurship among todays youth that was not there then. They now know that attributes like caste, class, religion, language or even nationality are mere hindrances but not insurmountable bars on the road to success. A dab of Capitalism and a bit of profit motive seem to have achieved what many reformers and many laws could not do.
I do not want to minimize the problems and challenges associated with Capitalism and Globalization. At present in India there are many people who have not benefited even a bit from recent changes. This is especially true among farmers and others who live in Indian villages. (However, even there, there are some encouraging signs. Recently I read in the New York Times about a village in North India where the farmars use Internet to check the price of soya bean futures in American commodities market before they sell to middlemen.)
If there is one nation that can handle these huge and complex challenges and still endure and even thrive, it is India. In my opinion, Indians should face these challenges and problems head-on while encouraging the budding entrepreneurial spirit amongst her youth. Instead, if one wants to wait for another Buddha, one may have to wait for another 2500 years. Even then, there is no guarantee that we will get one. Unlike in a capitalistic system, you can not even ask for a refund for a late or missing delivery!
South Brunswick, N.J. US of A
Hats off to MRD for an excellent article. He has brilliantly painted the true picture of Corporate America and Capitalist psychology.
Thanks to thatskannada.com for publishing this good reading.
I wish to add few points here.
Hope our citizens realize what US is doing and how they are indulging in day light robbary (robbary of intellectual as well as natural resources) by entering developing countries in the name of expansion and investment. American are also smart enough to fool educated (so called) people like us recruiting us as IT coolies or some other way. They earn billions of dollars and give few million dollars as aid. Anyway we always remember the benifits that had come to India due to liberalization. We should be aware of problems that may occure or adverse impact on our beatiful social systems and agriculture sectors.
One more point about Nehrus vision.
No doubt, he had great vision. But he failed in executing that. He made our people lazy and put them under too much security i.e job security. Today public sectors are while elephants without productivity. We spend so much resource in term of money and human resource , yet we are not able excell in many areas. Still today we make a deal with Rasia, US ,UK ,Isreal etc for defence sector , agriculture sector or technology sector. Here I am not saying we should not work with them. But what about the resources we have invested , investing ?. We can not blame Governments. Governments are formed by us i.e from the people and to the people. We are ignorent about whats happening around.
Anyway , let us hope for best and work towards that.
Hats of to India
- Muralidhar Koderi