Sen and Banerjee

I would have written about Amartya Sen’s interview and book, and Mamata Banerjee’s stand on land acquisition earlier but couldn’t, for some reason. In short, Sen shouldn’t be deciding who gets the flute, and Banerjee is bang on target when she says the government should have no role to play when it comes to the acquisition of land.

On Sen, John Rawls credits him in the preface to his 1971 treatise on political philosophy, “A Theory of Justice.” Referring to Sen’s book “Collective Choice and Social Welfare,” Rawls writes-

I should also like to thank A. K. Sen for his searching discussion and criticisms of the theory of justice. These have enabled me to improve the presentation at various places. His book will prove indispensable to philosophers who wish to study the more formal theory of social choice as economists think of it. At the same time, the philosophical problems receive careful treatment.

His ideology is pretty clear. He is a welfare statist.

On Banerjee, she isn’t a capitalist, but she does seem to see through the statist scam, at least when it comes to land acquisition. The most infuriating item of them all was the Times of India edit which called Banerjee’s position “idealistic.” There was a time when it wanted to be idealistic. But then Banerjee should have the same respect for all property. The farmer in Singur, and Vijay Mallya (this was during Laloo-raj), both deserve the same protection.

I agree with everything Sauvik writes. On Sen, and on Mamata.

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  • A  On August 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Hi, this is off-topic.

    Came across the following article from a blog (

    Do take a look in your free time. I find a lot of the present problems with India covered here, but they don’t seem to be correctly interpreted by the writer. For example, the money of the rich quoted in the article is said to have come from capitalism, whereas to me it seems it has come more from socialism and crony capitalism (and these guys have become rich thanks to no rule of law, bribing their way through to owning land etc.). I would like to know your views on this.

    Most astonishing things to me were:
    1. Where MC says Wal-mart should not be allowed to enter India! And the writer credits the guy’s riches to capitalism!

    “As I drive away, I cannot help thinking of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tossing and turning in bed, his snowy hair un-turbaned on the pillow, his dreams interrupted by the rich boys’ Ferraris screaming up and down the roads outside. Manmohan Singh is of course the man who, long ago, as finance minister, opened up the economy and set the course for a new market elite.”
    These market elite have not benefitted from the open economy, but more from the license-permit raj, bribing through whose arbitrariness they could amass wealth unimaginable to ordinary folks. I see very little hard work behind their wealth!

    • Aristotle The Geek  On August 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      # “the money of the rich quoted in the article is said to have come from capitalism, whereas to me it seems it has come more from socialism and crony capitalism”
      I guess the author assumes post-liberalization India is a capitalist India-

      Capitalism is rapacious, and its new elites, wherever they have been in the world, have usually risen sternly. Is the new Indian elite worse than everyone else? Is it worse, moreover, than the socialist ruling class that went before? It is so common, these days, to hear people indicting the vulgar new India, as Tarun does, by comparing it unfavourably to the more genteel socialist system of the old days. But wasn’t the socialist elite just as cruel and corrupt, even as it quoted Shakespeare and Marx? Isn’t there much that is positive in the explosive dynamism of the contemporary Indian economy?

      Otherwise, nearly everything he writes makes a lot of sense. He is aware of the corrupt society that Nehruvian socialism gave rise to. When the law makes it impossible for people to act legally, they will break the law, and lose respect for the concept as well. That is what happened, and continues to happen, in India.

      As for the fortunes the author describes, a lot of it did involve hard work. One cannot make money without hard work. Greasing palms is only necessary because the economy is structured that way. If one cannot get things done without the “approval” of bureaucrats, and getting the “approval” involves bribery, so be it. Land-grabbing is an unacceptable practice. But for every case involving a land-grab, there is a KP Singh whose description of the way he went about the business is incredible to say the least.

      On MC, as I said, the author isn’t using “capitalism” in the “laissez-faire” sense. He could be talking about aristocrats and feudal lords and call them capitalists because they have money and they have “influence.” That seems to be the only criteria. So, no, the description is not surprising at all.

      #These market elite have not benefitted from the open economy, but more from the license-permit raj,
      To an extent yes. Some of them thrive only because of the red tape. But in the case of many of them, red tape actually killed their businesses and they had to look for a different model that relied on the market. It takes a lot of foresight and ability, to know about a crisis that would emerge in the future and be ready with the goods the moment it strikes. If that is not hard work, I don’t know what is.

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