Fascinating how the 20th century has seen almost every economic theory, every fad, being implemented in some country or the other. Capitalism, centralized planning in a non democratic setting, centralized planning in a democratic setting, anarchy. About the only theory that’s not been tried out, at least not at a macro level, has been Gandhiji’s economic doctrine of putting the village at the centre of the economy. Panchayati Raj, the kibbutz possibly in a sense have done a bit there, but I doubt if it was anything like what Gandhiji had envisioned. A century later,as Gurcharan Das writes, free market capitalism has certainly won this game hands down. Consumerist capitalism to be more precise. We are well and truly down that road now, and its not a bad road to travel. Still I can’t help but wonder how we would have turned out if Gandhiji had had his way.
Less than a year ago, I had read this collection of letters, correspondences between Nehru and other eminent thinkers of his time. One particular correspondence that made for fascinating reading were a couple of long letters where Gandhiji and Nehru both put in writing their economic vision for an independent India. Quite different, but with the same noble intentions. Nehru’s command of English was amazing (I am certain if he had been a Brit , just as Churcill did, Nehru too would have won the Nobel prize for literature), you read his letters and you can almost feel an infectious idealism creeping into & affecting you in a funny sort of way.
In India Unbound, there’s a quote by Henry Kissinger where he says “It’s dangerous to let idealists set the economic agenda for a country”. Or something along those lines. Very true I think. I only have to look at my dad’s entrepreneurial journey, or for that matter the entrepreneurial journey of so many smart people at Hosur to see how the idealistic and impractical license raj killed so many dreams.
Today, more than anything else, the GOI has to make serious investments in primary and secondary education. Sometime ago, I thought infrastructure was the #1 priority. Education a close second. Now I am almost certain it is otherwise.