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I = S - M

The modern way of thinking about economics has been I = M - S Where I is the I as in me, M is what is 'mine' and S is what ...

7/26/15

Why do we believe what we are told? Why do we not think for ourselves?

Is it because we have been trained like Pavlov's poor dogs to respond a certain way to certain stimuli? I think it is. In my own case the Pavlovian analogy is not so far-fetched. My so-called teachers carried canes in their hands and beat us mercilessly if we did not do exactly what they wanted us to do. I remember once I was caned for speaking in Hindi, once for eating 'Indian food' out of my plastic lunch box. Both those were forbidden. So for me it is not hard to understand why I would 'buy in' to the brainwashing that passed for an education. With that sort of education it is a wonder that I ever 'got out'.

And the only reason I 'got out' was because of Gandhiji.

Growing up in a system far worse than the one I was subjected to, Gandhiji managed to find his bearings and with strength and dignity declared freedom from the stupid bigoted colonial education that all of us in India grew up with. Which is why he is my bapu, my father.

He is our bapu.

And he is the bapu of what we may now call Gandhian economics (though he never called it that). This would be an economics, a study of how people live and work in the 'ordinary business of life' as whole beings. People not split into consumers and producers but whole people who do many things: Live, work, love, laugh, enjoy their families, their friends, contribute to the building of complex inter-relationships and hence society itself. That is what we are exploring in these pages.

We are inspired by our father's example in rejecting the conventions of what passes today as economics, just as it did 100 years ago in Gandhiji's own time. We are building up, bit by bit, ideas, principles, theory and applications of a multifaceted, pluralistic and above all whole body of ideas that replaces the conventional ideas held by economics today which serve only to split each of us, split our families and destroy what is left of society.

We can change the world. We have to start with ourselves. We have to deprogram ourselves from our Pavlovian training and think for ourselves, chart our own paths across the sea of our life.

Gandhiji can serve as a useful compass on this journey. Which is why I write and which is why we should read him in his own words. 

7/23/15

I don't have to look far to see that there is humanity and then there is rationality. Humanity is a felt thing. You know when you follow Truth and when you follow unTruth. It is simple and can be trusted. This is the path that Gandhiji urged us to take.

Rationality gives precedence to cold reason over human considerations. Rationality is the path urged by modern economics. It is rationality alone that made it possible for the British to tax salt in India at levels that were unsustainable for the poor but immensely profitable for the government. India being a land of the poor, its very spirit was broken by this law. The salt lay in plain sight in the earth and yet its harvesting was forbidden even when done for the sake of the cattle who needed an occasional lick to sustain themselves.

There are accounts of cattlemen taking their cattle out late at night so that the cattle could lick some salt. Often such attempts were aborted by the overzealous police. The men were beaten, their cattle impounded. Such was the use of rationality in economic policy-making in British India.

It was a very profitable policy. All it lacked was humanity.

And that missing humanity makes all the difference between bad policy and good policy, between life wasted and life sustained. It is hard for me to believe that in my own country of birth (and that of Gandhiji) and all over the world people still, to this day, buy into the idea of rationality as the guiding principle of economic policy.

Friends, that is not just silly, it is downright dangerous. That attitude has brought the world to the brink of destruction. Only humanity can save it.