Differing Concepts of Populism Prabhat Patnaik

The same term is often employed by different people with different meanings, and this can be a source of immense confusion. The World Bank has done this to good effect in the past, taking over terms that are being used in a particular sense, especially by the Left, and using them in a very different sense, in order to create deliberate confusion and exploit in some way the sympathetic feeling that the term had attracted from people in its initial usage. “Structural adjustment” is a prime example of such appropriation by the World Bank. In its initial usage it had…

In the 2017 Budget, the Government has Compounded its Folly Prabhat Patnaik

The Budget estimates, which have generally become somewhat suspect of late, are particularly meaningless in the case of the 2017-18 Budget for two obvious reasons: first, the early presentation of the Budget means the availability of that much less information for the current year, upon which the Budget is based; and second, the draconian demonetisation that has occurred, while certain to pull down the GDP growth rate (even the Economic Survey concedes that), makes any precise prediction impossible. Let us therefore look at the broad strategy of the Budget rather going into its numbers in any detail. One obvious thing that…

A Quiet Scholar Prabhat Patnaik

The name of Amitava Bose who passed away in Kolkata on January 13 may not be known to many people outside of a small circle of scholars, students, and friends, but he was in formal terms the finest macro-economist in the country, and among the best anywhere in the world. My colleagues at JNU tell me that he was also, in formal terms, the finest micro-economist in the country, and also the finest in every other branch of economic theory. I can well believe what they say, but my direct first-hand knowledge relates to his intellectual prowess in the realm…

Neo-Liberal Capitalism and India’s Nationhood Prabhat Patnaik

India’s anti-colonial struggle was not just about getting independence from foreign rule. In fact, this struggle would not even have succeeded if it had been only about that. It was simultaneously, and indeed had to be, an effort to forge a new nation, of a sort that was not only unprecedented in modern world history (since the earlier emergence of nations in Europe had been part of an imperialist project which the anti-colonial struggle did not propose to emulate), but also represented, conceptually, a transformation of the country from a caste-ridden unequal society to one characterized by a fraternity of…

The Demonetization Fiasco Prabhat Patnaik

The demonetization of 86 percent of the currency of the country, a virtually unprecedented  measure anywhere in the world, has brought immense hardship to the working people of the country, and will damage their living standards permanently (since the Modi government plans not to replace the entire value of the demonetized notes by printing new ones). Many however believed that it was a step being taken for the greater social good, for achieving certain important social goals. Three of these goals were mentioned by the government from time to time: to attack black money, to replace counterfeit notes, and to…

The Pursuit of Unreason Prabhat Patnaik

A distinguished Ugandan social scientist of Indian origin, whom I happened to meet earlier this month at an academic conference, told me that Modi’s demonetization reminded him of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s fiat in 1972 that all Asians should quit Uganda within a period of three months. His analogy of course would be considered inapposite for an obvious reason: expelling people from their places of domicile, as Amin did, is certainly a more inhumane act than snatching away people’s purchasing power as has happened in India; and this remains true, even when the victims in the former case are…

The Dialectics of Authoritarianism Prabhat Patnaik

We are seeing in India at present a remarkable inversion of reason. The more the common people suffer from the impact of Modi’s demonetization, the more he is lauded for the “courage” shown by him in undertaking it. An economic measure should be, and normally is, judged on the basis of how it benefits the people, and any measure that brings distress to the people is derided for that reason. What we find in the present case however is just the opposite: the more demonetization brings distress to the people, the more it is applauded for its wisdom and courage.…

Demonetisation and Banks’ Lending Rates Prabhat Patnaik

Spokesmen of the ruling party are busy these days spreading another falsehood, namely that, because of demonetisation which has brought in huge amounts of cash to their coffers, banks would be so keen to lend that their lending rates are going to fall, and that such a fall will act as a stimulus for the economy. This is completely wrong, and banks’ lending rates can never fall for this reason. They may of course fall because the monetary policy announced by the Reserve Bank of India is so altered as to cause such a fall. But that could happen anyway;…

Demonetization as the Basis for a Fiscal Stimulus Prabhat Patnaik

A bizarre argument is doing the rounds these days. It states that the cash which gets disabled in the “black economy” because of the government’s demonetization measure, would enable the government to undertake an equivalent amount of expenditure with impunity; it can therefore spend more on infrastructure and other essential areas, or simply provide cash transfers to the people. BJP spokespersons who have been putting forward this argument, are promising transfers to everyone, in a manner reminiscent of Modi before the Lok Sabha elections, when he had promised that “black money” from Swiss Banks would be brought into the country…

Demonetization as a Means of Fighting “Black Money” Prabhat Patnaik

So many lies are being spread by the government which is currently busy wrecking the Indian economy in the manner of a bull in a china shop, so many spurious economic arguments are being trotted out by it, that one has to be extremely vigilant not to be swept away by this tide of unreason. In the current article, and the two subsequent ones to follow, I propose to examine some of the more persistent assertions that are being made by government spokesmen. The most persistent assertion of course is that demonetization is a measure against “black money”. In an…