Eyes Wide Shut

Sebastian Mallaby writes in today's Washington Post on the life and times of Jagdish Bhagwati, an Indian economist who was once a supporter of central planning and directed economies, but today is one of the biggest proponents of free trade. India is a nation held back by the tradition of socialist policies enacted by Jawaharlal Nehru and his Congress Party after independence from Britain. Only over the last fifteen years or so have economic and trade reforms allowed the potential of entrepreneurial India to flourish, as evidenced by its blooming software industry.

Today, Bhagwati's greatest challenges are not coming from obstinate government officials who mistakenly believe that central planning is the way to ensure prosperity, but as is common in many places in the world, from cultural intellectuals such as Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie. Roy and Rushdie, whose writing talents make me envious, claim that the economic boom that has resulted in growth at twice the rate in the post-reform 90s as during the 60s and 70s, has left the "countryside" behind. Yet, contrary to their charges, the evidence shows that even the poorest have benefitted from liberalizing reforms. Unfortunately for them, the Roy's and Rushdie's of India scored a triumph last week with the electoral victory of Sonia Gandhi and her Congress Party.

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