Questioning growth- Books Indians Should Read (Post 8455)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8455

Date uploaded in London – – – 5 August 2020   

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Books Indians Should Read Chapter – 2 – Part 3
     R. Nanjappa

Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes:

“We have designed an expensive and unfair intellectual property regime that works more to the advantage of patent lawyers and large corporations than to the advancement of science and small innovators.” 

Economic system has to be redesigned to ensure more even flow of income and wealth. Growth does not automatically lead to prosperity for all. This flood does not raise all boats equally! [Often, it even ceases to be flood.] 

-Growth does not automatically lead to environmental health. Greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater depletion and contamination, deforestation, soil degradation, agrochemical use  (which is invariably abuse of the environment), biodiversity loss- these are not going to slow down or get reversed by pursuing more growth on current lines. Today the economy takes matter from the environment, and throws away the waste as if it were a sink! Even big corporates like Volkswagen have been found cheating! Industrial activity has broken down natural systems of recycling, and its own products and byproducts defy any system of recycling as these materials cannot be absorbed by nature! If every country in the world tried to emulate the living style and consumption pattern of the US or UK, we would need 3 or 5 planets earth to supply us the material resources, but generated waste is again a different matter! 

-We have to question the very concept of growth, and at least be agnostic about its benefits.
Economic growth is the only universal religion today! In the 1960s W.W.Rostow propounded his theory of the stages and process of ‘Growth’ and envisaged the state of ‘high mass consumption’ as the fifth and final stage of the growth phenomenon. Now, precisely high mass consumption has been shown to be an impossibility on a global scale. And it is a disaster even within individual countries when followed to the extreme.

 Though economists speak of growth, no one has dared to publish a graph of growth! There are hundreds of diagrams and graphs, charts and tables but none absolutely on growth! The reason? The very attempt to draw such a graph will show its utter idiocy! It is impossible to draw such a figure! Rostow talked of take off, but what takes off has to land too! It is the responsibility of this generation to ensure that the mechanism we have devised does not crash land! 

Questioning growth

Many great economists have questioned the idea of endless growth in a finite environment: E.J.Mishan, E.F.Schumacher, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Herman Daly, etc. But the mainstream of economic orthodoxy as represented by the leading universities in the West such as Harvard and Chicago are like buffalos in the rain- as we say in India: absolutely insensible and insensitive! They carry on as if nothing has happened! And they silence the ideas which are critical to their petty theories. The so called developing countries also emulate them blindly.  We do not have any genuine original thinkers among economists or politicians in India. We only have imitators.

 Most of our so  called bright youngsters take up technical studies and are hardly aware of the full ramifications of the economic system and its consequences for society.  

                                                 ****              to be continued