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03/17/2011

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Jimbino

This is the guy who loved the poor so much that he worked to increase their numbers, single-handedly setting India back for a couple of generations.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

If you're going to indulge your penchant for grandiose generalizations in comments on this blog it would help if they had at least the faintest hint of a connection with reality.

In this case, your comment demonstrates an absolute ignorance about the economic history of India: before, during, and after Gandhi's death. Apart from the "great man" trope of historical change and impact lurking in the shadows, the comment fails to acknowledge the well-known historical fact among experts across the political spectrum well-versed in India's economic history that the economic policies adopted by Nehru's government, notably and sometimes notoriously its Five-Year plans, were about as far from Gandhi's own socio-economic ideas (which, frankly, tended toward the utopian) as one can imagine. These were unduly deferential to a Soviet economic model (despite their social democratic provenance) by way of distancing the government from capitalist economic hegemony and ostensibly toward forging a "third-way" beyond the prevailing Cold War economic alternatives, exemplifying a State-directed form of indiscriminate industrialization that often failed to make substantial progress toward such ends as "the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality," progress toward which has since been made, in fits and starts and in some parts of India, most conspicuously, in the state of Kerala.

Take some time to read at least some of the relevant literature on the subject and you'll see how little influence Gandhi's life and work had on the socio-economic policies and conditions that prevailed in India after Independence and now, with economic "liberalization," the socio-economic state of affairs in today's India.

Jimbino

Gandhi is just another socialist, though more enlightened than Lenin, Stalin and Mao. His economic policy is summed up in the Sermon on the Mount, for Christ's sake.

Fortunately for India, his disciple Nehru was a fan of industrialization who criticized Gandhi's misguided focus on rural economics. But still it took 50 years for India to begin to recover from the madness.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Neither the characterization of Gandhi as a "socialist" simpliciter nor claiming his "economic policy is summed up in the Sermon on the Mount" does his economic thinking the slightest justice. One could fairly say the comparative neglect of or superficial attention devoted to "rural economics" (or agrarian reform) has certainly prolonged and exacerbated the misery of India's poor. While he was no economist, Gandhi's normative democratic and economic principles certainly have some relevance to thinking afresh about not a few of the assumptions in development and welfare economics. As Thomas Weber writes in an essay on Gandhi's "moral economics," "Given the economic and environmental state of the planet, perhaps a superficial negative appraisal of Gandhian economics is less than helpful."

The relevance of moral philosophy and ethics to economics has been an increasing refrain heard among the ranks of economists and philosophers alike. And the kinds of normative principles and standards Gandhi invoked are today found in the works of authors like Martha Nussbaum, whose "capabilities" approach to economic development: Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (2011), clearly echoes the central concerns of Gandhi's economic thinking insofar as it argues that "our dominant theories of development have given us policies that ignore our most basic human needs for dignity and self-respect."

Incidentally, Gandhi did not have an "economic policy," only governments formulate such policy.

Please have the last word, as continuation of this exchange from my end would prove fruitless.

Jimbino

OK,

I'll leave the last word to Christopher Hitchens, who took on the myth of Gandhi in his book "God is not Great."

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