Arun Maira’s book, “Transforming Capitalism : Improving the World for Everyone” deals with the most important crisis the World is facing today. It explores and delves into the causes, and tries to find out the solution of the myth of Capitalism, and the implosion of 2008.
I was curious about this book. Arun Maira after all is a much respected authority, presently a member of the Planning Commission of India, was for 25 years in Tata Administrative Services, a Capitalist, advisor and consultant to Global Business Giants, chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, and in the board of numerous business and educational institutions. Also a noted columnist in various journals and papers, including the “Economic Times”. I was curious, not about what I will find in the book, as to be modest, it was predictable. I was more curious to find out which of his identity eclipsed the other one…the capitalist eclipsing the social planning, or the other way round. All I can say is he atleast tried to maintain a balance, which is a rarity these days.
Coming to the book, this book comes up with some good case studies, and essays about the global crisis of Capitalism. That’s just about it. For the start this book maintains the same line of arguement about balance between CSR and greed, between social subsidies and survival and competition. It makes the same mistake of looking at capitalism from a linear, monochromatic point of view, identifying the “laissez faire”, hire and fire policies of 18th century Adam Smith influenced economics, to modern 8 hour work limit, worker’s right and social security included capitalism. I have heard the story many times since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I am still not onvinced or impressed. They are not similar, the situations…and there is a two hundred years gap between them.
See, we are without doubt in the middle of a crisis. Global crisis which started in the west, which will somehow touch us too, sooner than you imagine. One nation, with howsoever strong and growing economy, can’t flow against the tide. It is therefore important to identify the proper causes of this problem, in order to implement any solution or collective approach. With all due respect to Mr. Maira, he couldn’t do it, or give us a new vision with his book. Nor can I, to be frank, but then I am not writing any book, am I?
The main arguement against subsidies, and state bailouts, and social security can be the example of Greece. It is fashionable these days, we see college youths, ideologically motivated, talking about “equality” and how everyone has rights to live with dignity etc. Noble though the ideals maybe, the practical feasibility of the goals are much questioned. What are the economic solutions? Where are the resources? Greece had one of the best social security systems. They nurtured a class of people, who are now rioting when they are asked to work, and take up austerity. On the other hand, look at Germany. Two World wars, broken legacy, and a burden of guilt which somehow never leaves, they are now at the top, leading the economic recovery of Europe. But then not everyone possess German efficiency and discipline, do they? Which brings us to a more important question…considering the difference of the problem, and the difference of the situation prevailing across the globe, is it at all wise to suggest a single solution for all?
I don’t know the answer. But I guess that is a good line from where one might start thinking.
I am not against CSR. Honestly. I believe it can be great if Capitalists can be a bit more compassionate and considerate. But I am caustic about false prophets of doom, who cry “death to free market” in every sign of a bust. Capitalism survives. It survived the World wars. It survived the strikes of weavers, when the first cotton mill came. It survived the Great Depression. It survived Cold War, the first arrival of computers in Work force dislodging manual labour in the 80s. Some cried hoarse then too. What we saw however is that more people got job than who lost them, though not always necessarily the same set of people. It is important to innovate and change according to time. One can’t expect to be static and expect the State to feed him, and his future generations regardless of his or their quality. And therein lies the hopelessness as well as the inevitability of capitalism. It will stay on. It will change, mutate according to time, but will stay on. Like I said before, it is fashionable for people, mostly young people to shout noble goals of equality and social security. But here’s a warning from me, a man reaching his thirties, with a few white hair over the temples, who lived in the stagnating days of late 80s and early 90s, in a proper socialist economy. You have absolutely no idea what you are creating and proselytizing.
Like my father told me once, “those who are not leftist before the age of 20, don’t have a heart…those who are still after 20, don’t have brains.”
Finally, a food for thought. Tatas and Ambanis, are much hated men among leftists in India. They are “exploiting capitalists”. Arundhati Roy is a beloved one, Booker prize winner, fighter for Maoist and tribal rights. Ambanis and Tatas opened schools for underprivileged, and distributed books, foods thereby touching upon lives of thousands. Roy drank double scotches in her posh South Delhi apartment, and lectured about exploitation. I think I will choose the former any given day.