Monday, June 21, 2010

Hindu Economics by Professor M.G. Bokare

There is a very interesting book that I came across a few days back by Professor M.G. Bokare , one of the founders of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch . It explores a very nuanced idea of markets and free markets under Indian / Bharatiya circumstances . Professor Bokare has a lot of very interesting ideas including making out the point that the Western Capitalist system is not as "free" as we think it is . The reason why I bring this in the public domain is in part inspired by the discussions which I had in a fantastic colloquium on The Indian Liberal Tradition in Bangalore or Bengaluru and the National Council Meeting of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch at Raipur which I had the privilege to attend. All of us may not agree with everything in the book , but it is worth reading for the new interpretation which it gives to the old problem of how to have a market system with Indian characteristics . I suggest that everyone reads the book " Hindu Economics" to draw their own conclusions. I only sort of enclose a short summary :

Hindu Economics by Professor M.G. Bokare

The first edition of the now famous work of Professor M.G. Bokare “ Hindu Economics” was published on 19th February , 1993 now nearly 16 years from the present date . It in many ways is the seminal book based on which an argument for an alternate to the present economic scenario is made, and , rightly so . However , it does seem apparent that the dissent from the present economic scenario remains as it was then “on paper” . We as a movement of nationalists are far away from actually devising policy and or methodology to actuate the visions of a “third way”.

The context of “Hindu Economics”

Hindu Economics is clearly a post communist book . It has to read as such . The context of the book is clearly written from the point of view of a disillusioned or if not disgruntled communist . It is written from the experience of having seen communism collapsing right in front of ones eyes and living through that being a communist . Yet interestingly it is not written to either euologise the conceptions of communism under the name and guise of “Hindu Economics” as it was natural to expect , nor was it written as a disclaimer to “socialist ideology” as could have been very well the other option . It was written almost presciently about the short comings of western economic thinking and the need to find solutions to problems on Indian lines .

A short paragraph about Professor Bokare

Professor Madhukar Govind Bokare was born to a poor family in Wardha , near Nagpur in Maharashtra , in the year 1926. He was educated at the Craddock English High School at Wardha , and subsequently studied at the G.S. College of Commerce . He was deeply influenced by both Gandhian ideas and Communist ideology , as was quite common in those days . He was closely associated with the communist movement and was actively involved in the organisation of farmers specially cotton farmers in the cotton growing areas of Vidharbha in Maharashtra . After a long association with the communist ideology and being unable to rationalize the contradictions within the Communist movement , Professor Bokare , became it’s trenchant critic .However his experience of working with the farmers of Vidarbha had also taught him that laissez faire economics does not work . Subsequently he came to write a series of books , whereby he took on the very concept and flaws of western economics in the form of a number of path breaking books like :

  1. Hindu-economics (Eternal Economic Order) (First edition 1993, Second edition 2009)
  2. Islamic Economics (1995)
  3. The Economic Theory of Sarvodaya (1985) (English)
  4. Sarvodayacha Arthik Siddhant (Translated in Marathi by Prof. N B Vaidya of Nagpur) 2005
  5. Reassessment of Marxism (first edition 2006, second revised edition 2006)
  6. Let the Fittest Survive (2007)
  7. Gandhivadi Arthashastra (in Marathi- 2008)
  8. Expenditure-Based-Income Tax
  9. Stagflation-Its cure
  10. Swadeshi Economics- Principle and Practice
  11. Farmers’ Problems and Solution – in Marathi. (Edited by Prof. N B Vaidya)

He also went on to become the Vice Chancellor of Nagpur University and became attached to a number of educational institutions . He was the founding Convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch on 22nd November , 1991 and was responsible in formulating the basic principles of the Manch as well as attempting to create an ideology of alternative economics which though grounded in the ideology of India / Bharat / Hindu philosophy , yet was not hostage to it . He died in the year 2001 , having laid the seeds of a robust economic ideology based on Hindu thought

Hindu Economics – the book .

The book can be divided into two major parts and to my mind two distinct parts , one theory and the other a clear and as erudite an attempt to practicalise the theory which was formulated in the book .

The first part was by Dattopant Thengadiji , who wrote a foreword called “ Quo Vadis” ( latin for “Where are you going ?”)which attempts to crystallize thoughts of Hindu / Bharatiya economics in precise and specific policies and which I think should be the basis of another writing / article . In many ways , the long foreword was altogether a different book and an independent treatise in itself on the conception of Bharatiya Economic Theory and it’s practical application to India .

The second part of the book was the book now famously known as “Hindu Economics” written by Professor Bokare , on the theory of economics which would be inspired by the eternal ways of India .

The ideas of Hindu Economics

Professor Bokare touched on a number of issues in the course of his famous book . This article will try to summarise a few broad concepts which he tried to formulate in order to create an alternate economic philosophy based on Hindu concepts .

Professor Bokare clearly believes that economics cannot be compartmentalized in clear boxes like in the west and has to be read as part of the society and it’s norms in which it exists , like the ancient Indian thinkers .

It is apparent from a study of the book that Professor Bokare also did not believe in a command economy where the state is the deliverer of economic benefits . He was also of the view that competition was crucial in an economy and formal equality was a dead end.

The three greatest contributions of Professor Bokare however was his trenchant criticism of western economies failure to curb prices , his theory of a taxless society and his theory of interest free banking .

On the first , Professor Bokare was of the view that western economic systems , though it sings paens to competition yet within it’s structures creates hidden and apparent monopolies which were responsible for hiking of prices and these monopolies will have to eliminated so that the prices keep on falling instead of keeping on climbing higher as they do today . He said that this was in accordance with the Hindu conceptions of economic well being so as to ensure that all benefited from the economy and the benefits of the economy does not get concentrated in the hands of the very few . Professor Bokare demarcated a number of clear monopolies in western economies , some of the clear ones he was of the view was Intellectual Property and Joint Stock Companies , which were responsible for monopolies instead of promoting competition , which would benefit the common customer .

The second was his concept that the tax burden had to be severely reduced , since that would be the only way through which further production can be incentivised , which would result in greater employment of the people . He believed that the tax burden should be progressively reduced .He is of the view that the budget is to be financed by printing notes , that is through deficit financing.

The third was his concept that it was incumbent upon the state to provide interest free loans to all people , since this would help in incentivising production and setting up and creating wealth , without imposing a huge burden on those creating wealth . In a very interesting observation Professor Bokare actually observes that this will actually help in the diffusion of technology and encouragement of self employment and give people a real and valid option of being an entrepreneur .

Some of the other ideas that Professor Bokare discussed in his book were :

(a) the theory of self employment : he says that the best way to have an efficient economy would have to be based on a large number of self employed people since as he so rightly points out that incase most people are self employed and therefore not dependent on others , therefore there is very little chance of class conflict within society . He is of the view that the self employed worker / farmer does not exploit any one and is not exploited by anyone. According to him this is the fundamental difference between a Hindu Economy and Western methods of analysis of economies whether capitalist or socialist. What is most notable however is that he presciently observes that this Hindu Economy is self sustaining no doubt , but at all times it is subject to the political system ( Raj Niti) and the punitive legal system ( Danda Niti) not having swerved from the path of Dharma.

(b) A very interesting suggestion of making the workers owners of the company , by allowing them to hold the shares of the company and ensure that the said shares always remain with the workers and are not owned by people who do not have a stake in the company . He was clearly therefore against the stock exchange and the dealing in shares.

(c) A very interesting thought that a Hindu economy will be family based and being family based will be inherently limited to extension of the family and will not have the downsides of the western “capitalist” market system .

(d) He calls for a strict implementation of the laws and regulations and a very thorough rigorous enforcement of laws even with the help of an active secret service , something which he believes is essential to have a functioning Hindu economy .

(e) He also calls for application of appropriate technology in the economy , which he says would be a direct result of a family oriented economy.

His immediate suggestions for short term measures :

He suggests some immediate measures to change the course of the economy :

(1) immediate scrapping the laws which create monopoly that is joint stock companies , intellectual property laws and trade unions .

(2) the norms of Niti Shastra should be made to permeate all society specially the judiciary .

(3) Disregard of rules , laws and regulations should be immediately penalized .

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