Atanu Dey On India's Development

Reality Disconnect

There appears to be a thriving cottage industry which is primarily engaged in churning out shallow pieces of journalistic garbage. The pieces detail a particular person’s or family’s struggles and then juxtapose it in some dramatic way with perceived overall prosperity. The implicit argument is that there is an immense injustice being perpetrated against the poor, that it is all the fault of those who are not poor, and that the poor have absolutely no responsibility for the miserable state of affairs. These articles reveal a lot without intending to. They plainly state that the author did not quite learn the lesson that stared them in the face when they were investigating the story.

Here’s an example of the genre from The Telegraph — Calcutta titled “Aam Aadmi Disconnect“. (Hat tip: shiva@case.)

The micro details are: family lives in one of Bengal’s 4,600 backward villages; unemployment is over 40 percent; female literacy is 21 percent; father barely gets 70 days of work; the rice from the little land they own runs out in five months; the family starves most of the year. And one more detail the implications of which never seems to register: the family has six children.

The story, in keeping with the script that the writers of this sort of tripe have to follow, intersperses the struggles of the unfortunate family with contrasting details about IIT Kharagpur, the amazing GDP growth rate of India, and other such information that is supposed to shock the reader into the realization that he or she is complicit in the misery of the poor and has to do something about it as he or she is clearly responsible for the disparity. There isn’t even a hint in the article that perhaps the poor may have something to do with the poverty they suffer.

The family must have been poor when it was just the man and wife. Then instead of having one or two children, they decided that they would be all be better off by producing half a dozen children. They don’t have the resources to support even themselves in any degree of material well-being and yet don’t have the slightest hesitation in producing more babies. It is a vicious cycle: the fecundity of the poor ensures that the next generation is large and even poorer. Since no exponential process in nature can be sustained, this cycle meets its boundary condition soon enough: the land, however fertile, is unable to sustain the population and the population collapses from starvation, conflict and disease.

However, we live in a world where at least for a short time, the inevitable can be postponed and people shielded from the consequences of their own folly. The solution is generally to provide just enough food from outside the region to sustain the population for a short while. This relief provides the population breathing room to produce more babies so that in the next cycle, there are more people at risk of starvation. By continually supporting a poor but fecund population through the simple means of redistributing resources from a relatively more productive and non-fecund population, the general prosperity of continues to go down, while the overall population continues to spiral upwards. The boundary condition is once again reached: there are no surplus resources available anywhere as everything that is produced is consumed to just keep the immense population at subsistence level. Thermodynamic equilibrium has been attained.

I think that is what the aim of the socialistic government is: keep everybody at the edge of starvation because in this state of affairs, there is no inequality. Everyone is equally miserably poor and as there is no surplus production, there is no wealth and there is nothing for one person to envy another.

I am willing to bet that the budget that the UPA government will present today will make its contributions in terms of speeding India along the road to that socialistic heaven of equality.

Related Post:

The Sustaining of Poverty

People Matter: India’s Population Problem — Part 2

The Persistence of Poverty

  • Ike

    Rule #1 of journalism: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    Rule #1 of socialism: Misery loves company. These guys said it best:

    There is unrest in the forest
    There is trouble with the trees
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas

    The trouble with the maples
    (and they’re quite convinced they’re right)
    They say the oaks are just too lofty
    And they grab up all the light
    But the oaks cant help their feelings
    If they like the way they’re made
    And they wonder why the maples
    Cant be happy in their shade?

    There is trouble in the forest
    And the creatures all have fled
    As the maples scream `oppression!`
    And the oaks, just shake their heads

    So the maples formed a union
    And demanded equal rights
    the oaks are just too greedy
    We will make them give us light
    Now theres no more oak oppression
    For they passed a noble law
    And the trees are all kept equal
    By hatchet, axe, and saw …