Capitalism has never anywhere provided good houses at moderate cost. Housing, it seems unnecessary to stress, is an important adjunct of a successful urban life. Nor does capitalism provide good health services, and when people live close together with attendant health risks, these too are important. Nor does capitalism provide efficient transportation for people—another essential of the life of the Metropolis. In Western Europe and Japan the failure of capitalism in the fields of housing, health and transportation is largely, though not completely, accepted. There industries have been intensively socialized. In the United States there remains the conviction that, however contrary the experience, private enterprise will eventually serve.
A personage no less than John Kenneth Galbraith wrote that in his book, The Age of Uncertainty (1977). America has succeeded in exporting that belief to quite many countries. India, under the present leadership, is the latest entrant into the elite club of capitalists. People like Mukesh Ambani escort the Prime Minister on his important trips. Capitalists like the Adani Group get US $ 1 billion (INR 6200 crore) in the form of loan from the country’s premier bank for extending their business to Australia.
Wayne Roberts, Canadian food policy analyst and writer, pointed out time and again that big corporations moved ahead from being taxpayers to tax recipients. Tax breaks given to industrialists and corporations cost capitalist governments huge amounts of their revenues in the heydays of capitalism. Will the huge loan given now to the Adani Group end up as a millstone around the Indian common man’s neck?
Many economists and thinkers have drawn the attention of various policy makers to the plain fact that capital always drives for power, for control over markets, lands and resources. “Capital, in corporate hands, can move anywhere and thus demand and get the utmost in concessions and privileges as well as the freedom to operate in the interest of ever-increasing wealth and assets,” wrote Eric Kierans, Canadian economist and politician, in 2001 (Remembering).
America shelled out its taxpayers’ money to bail out the country’s capitalists in the recent past. American can afford to do that. It has the potential to tide over every bust engendered by capitalism. “Boom and bust has always marked capitalism in the United States,” to quote Galbraith again. “There were panics in 1785, 1791, 1819, 1857, 1869, 1873, 1907, 1929 and 1987.” The more recent busts are still fresh in our minds. Does India possess the potential to manage the busts spawned inevitably by capitalism?
My knowledge of economics is limited. I can only raise these questions and apprehensions. As an observer of what capitalism has done so far in countries where it was given a free rein I’m afraid that the poor in India will have to be satisfied with Swachh Bharat and such crumbs.
The BJP government is going to take away the subsidies from the rich. I think it’s a good move. But I’m quite sure that it is simply a forerunner of the end of all kinds of subsidies. That is, in the near future there will be no subsidy for anyone, however below the poverty line may one be. Welfare government is breathing its last in India, I think. May I be proved wrong.