The wisdom of ants

219 20 0
  • Loading ...
1/219 trang
Tải xuống

Thông tin tài liệu

Ngày đăng: 20/01/2020, 08:03

Tranquebar Press Shankar Jaganathan Shankar Jaganathan is passionate about economic history, sustainability practices and corporate governance A chartered accountant and law graduate, he has varied experience in corporate, academic and social sectors in a career spanning twenty-five years A select list of the entities and institutions he is/was associated with includes Wipro, Azim Premji Foundation, Indian Institute of Science, Union Bank of India, Oxfam India and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies He currently divides his time between corporate consulting for rapidly growing entities, teaching, research and writing He is also an independent director on the boards of Indian corporates and NGOs, and teaches at leading management schools Shankar is the author of Corporate Disclosures: 1553-2007: The Origin of Financial and Business Reports, published by Routledge in 2008 This book was selected by the Indian Society of Training and Development, New Delhi for commendation in 2010 and was awarded a cash prize The Wisdom of Ants: A Short History of Economics by Shankar Jaganathan Tranquebar Press An imprint of westland ltd Venkat Towers, 165, P.H Road, Maduravoyal, Chennai 600 095 No 38/10 (New No.5), Raghava Nagar, New Timber Yard Layout, Bangalore 560 026 23/181, Anand Nagar, Nehru Road, Santacruz East, Mumbai 400 055 93, 1st Floor, Sham Lal Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002 First published in Tranquebar by westland ltd 2012 Copyright © Shankar Jaganathan, 2012 All rights reserved 10 ISBN: 978-93-82618-01-0 Inside book formating and typesetting by Ram Das Lal Printed at Thomson Press India Ltd This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, circulated, and no reproduction in any form, in whole or in part (except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews) may be made without written permission of the publishers Dedicated to Mr Azim Premji, The Visionary Philanthropist Actions speak louder than words Contents Foreword by Mr Azim Premji Introduction Part I: The Origin Need Legs to Stand: The Basic Prerequisites Part II: A Short Biography of Economics Ethically Immersed: A Long Infancy 400 BCE to 1500 CE Socially Shackled: A Brief Childhood 1300 to 1776 CE Market Based: A Promising Youth 1776 to 1929 CE Ideologically Designed: A Rich Adulthood 1929 to 2009 CE Part III: Looking Ahead A Nobel Science: The Decisive Edge A Steadying Anchor: Value-based or Value-neutral? The Last Horizon: Economic Democracy Postscript: Reflections and Conclusion Appendix Annexure: Classification of Winners Acknowledgements Foreword Critics of the capitalist model have long been concerned about economics dominating all aspects of our lives and crowding out other important considerations, be they social, political or ethical in nature This extreme economic focus is seen to reduce the humane connect between individuals in a society and make them less responsible to each other The widening income and wealth disparity, coupled with a deep social divide, has only heightened the anxiety of these critics On the other hand, there are people who have been blind supporters of the capitalist, free-market model, believing it to be the path to all kinds of well-being The 2008 financial crisis has certainly prompted many to re-examine the basic premises of the prevailing economic models Even people in the extremities of the two camps have been engaged in debate and exploration As an interested observer not belonging to either of these groups, I have often wondered if economics is a subject that should be left to the specialists Economics no longer deals with technical issues that touch the periphery of our lives, and that can be left to the sole care of specialists By impacting human life in multiple ways and at multiple points, I think economics has come into the popular domain uninvited Given its entry, I believe every individual has an obligation to think for themselves and contribute to setting a basic economic agenda for their society The choice between alternative economic paths is quite sharp and has a significant influence on most important issues in society In addition, the alternatives are built on very distinct foundations At the core, the choices revolve around finding the balance between a few key issues: for example, promoting self-interest vs altruistic behaviour as the primary driver in society; creating a competitive vs cooperative environment; choosing between the social good and individual good; and using economics with the definiteness of a physical science vs the tentativeness of a social science As is apparent, these are difficult and complex choices There is certainly helpful reading material available for any ‘non-economist’ to think through these issues, but not much of this material has the historical sweep of Shankar Jagnathan’s book, The Wisdom of Ants: A Short History of Economics The Wisdom of Ants is a book on the ‘philosophy’ of economics, which is panoramic in view, historical in approach and conceptual in nature By looking at a long time-span of three millennia, and across all major civilizations, cutting across diverse ideologies and relating them to the challenges of the twenty-first century, this book fills a critical gap in our popular discourse While this book may not provide any new or definite answers, and each one of us may have different views on the issues, it does raise a set of relevant questions and captures alternative approaches in answering them I liked in particular the narration of historical episodes: resolving the value paradox, the three contests between the demand-side economists and their supply-side counterparts spread over two centuries, and the birth of the Nordic economic model The simplicity of these narrations, rich in detail and strong on emotions makes them memorable and conceptually vivid I commend this book to all interested citizens who want to form their own views on economic issues rather than borrow the views of others (despite the fame or renown of their proponents) I think forming our own views, and not borrowing those of others is at the core of creating a thinking society, which in turn is at the core of creating a better society So, even on economic issues, we must take up this responsibility of thinking and forming our own views, and not ‘outsource’ it to the professional economists This is not to say that amateurs (like me) should be deciding the mechanics of the economic system or driving it But as interested and affected parties we definitely have the right, if not the duty to set the charter for the economics professionals The charter that I personally subscribe to is the development of a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society and I hope that the economists (and everyone else) consider this seriously Azim Premji Bangalore Introduction ‘It is the story that matters, not just the ending.’ – Paul Lockhart A strange paradox is at play Contrary to the expectations of many who view the emergence of economics as an answer to the problems of scarcity, this discipline rather than decreasing in importance with the wealth at our command, has increased Not only has its prominence grown, but economics is also invading other spheres of human life Garry Becker, the Nobel laureate, said, ‘“Economic imperialism” is probably a good description of what I do.’ This comment was in the context of his work on examining issues like marriage and the decision to have children using an economic lens By equating the decision to have children with buying consumer durables, he imperialistically expanded the domain of economics by shrinking the scope of other social sciences The increasing influence of economics in many spheres of human life is not a fringe phenomenon, and has slowly but surely influenced mainstream thinking Stemming from this is the widespread support for ideas that place the market as the primary decisionmaking apparatus in society Given this increased importance accorded to the economic lens in viewing human life, it is worth examining the factors that have led to this situation The Wisdom of Ants attempts to trace the journey of economics from relative obscurity to its current dominant role in human history The evolution of Homo economicus as we travel back in time is fascinating We see that many concepts which are widely accepted today, were previously ignored, criticized, discouraged and scorned Similarly, the importance given today to economic issues such as promoting personal wealth creation, was absent in the past as multiple other ethical, religious and social considerations clamoured for mindshare The rise of economic issues above the maze of ethical, religious and conceptual hurdles over the last three millennia is captured in the first part of the book The three main concepts – private property, social sanction for selfcentred individualism and a materialistic outlook – are marked as the key features that elevated economics to its current dominant status The notion of private property emerged in spite of the ethical obligation to share without receiving anything in kind Further, unlike the animal kingdom where only possession is recognized, the idea of titles to property surfaced in human society The title holders derived benefits even in the absence of possession, providing an incentive for enterprising individuals to exert more in order to gain property and have a comfortable life This was perhaps the birth of entrepreneurship As some individuals accumulated wealth, religious mandates laid a duty of charity on them, to share their surplus wealth with their less-resourceful brethren Lending and borrowing would have been an acceptable alternative to charity, as they would have protected vulnerable human life without making unilateral transfers However, prevailing religious practices often prohibited receiving interest on loans, thereby limiting lending Interest was seen as usury, a sin that represented uncharitable behaviour by the lender Nevertheless, human beings are innovative In the middle of the second millennium, human ingenuity came up with logic to justify interest payments, marking a prominent way in which self-centred behaviour became socially sanctioned Concurrently, this diluted the religious mandate to support brethren Permitting interest payments further accelerated wealth generation Greater wealth translated to an increase in demand for the quality, quantity and variety of goods and services By itself this may not have led to anything significant, but for the emergence of a new philosophy that quantified happiness and equated it to the utility of the goods and services consumed This propelled economics to the centre stage of social debates How can a single book encompass all the ideas and history of a discipline as diverse as economics? It may not be possible, yet a brief, multi-faceted canvassing of this discipline’s history can help us understand some of the most important ideas in economics and economic thinking More importantly, it can provide the backdrop to the evolution of economic ideas over the course of human history, something which is dealt with extensively in the second part of this book Initially, economics began to come into its own as a realm of ideas in related disciplines like ethics and public administration As we examine the period 400 BCE to 1500 CE for economic ideas, we discover that private property was accepted, but social consent for self-centred individualistic behaviour was not yet conceded The diversity of ideas that confront us is staggering In the four prominent civilizations — Greek, Indian, Chinese and Islamic — where economics never emerged as a distinct discipline, economic issues were closely examined Economics was more philosophy, as ideas about exchange of goods, happiness, wealth, inequity and statehood dominated this thinking The writings nearest in nature to economics by one prominent thinker from each civilization are taken as representative of its prevailing economic ideas While Aristotle, the philosopher, and Ibn Khaldun, the historian, examined the life of an individual, Kautilya and Lord Shang, both political advisors, were engaged in identifying the principles for managing a kingdom In these writings the seeds of economic ideas are visible, developing later in a more nourishing environment where the social sanction for a selfcentred individual was provided Within these writings themselves, where self-centred behaviour was considered, economic ideas become more distinct Despite the absence of what we today see as hardcore economics, these writings are extremely important as they debate the more ignored issues in economics today: human happiness, unequal wealth distribution and the social safety net These debates were not just confined to these four civilizations; they were widespread and prevailed in other parts of the world too In the five-hundred-year-long period starting in the tenth century, material prosperity in Europe accelerated, leaving the rest of the world behind In a unique trend, European GDP for the first time grew much faster than the population growth A probable source for this acceleration lies in the beginning of royal sanction for monopolies, which were earlier viewed as unethical as they were held to be socially unfair This marked a major shift, as Acknowledgements I have often heard the saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ Till recently I did not realize its implications Had I known four years back what I know today, I would not have picked the history of Economics as a topic to write about With hindsight I can see that the vast terrain, multiple contours and different perspectives would deter the wise, but not the ignorant or the passionate with time to explore Without the time to explore, this book would not even have begun My extreme gratitude goes to Mr Azim Premji and Mr Suresh Senapaty of Wipro for providing me with a flexible work arrangement that gave me the time to explore my passion In addition, I would like to offer my special thanks to Mr Premji for writing the Foreword to the book Our most distinguished Josephite colleague Rahul Dravid readily agreed to endorse this book My special thanks go to him for supporting a fellow Josephite I am blessed to have a circle of friends who are voracious readers and spared time from their busy schedules to read the manuscript chapter by chapter as it was written and refined over four years My heartfelt thanks go to Anurag Behar, Joseph George, Kumar Alok, Lakshminarayana, Narayan P.S., Pavan Rao, Ravi Menon, Sreekanth Sreedharan and Veena Padmanabhan for sparing their valuable time and providing me with their incisive comments As the manuscript reached the halfway mark, I reached out to subject matter experts to seek their guidance Their immediate response and proactive support was, to say the least, encouraging and it impelled me to push ahead with vigour Prof Vijay Shankar Vyas, Prof Narayana and Prof Mahadevan in particular went through the manuscript and provided me valuable guidance, while Prof Desphande of the Institute of Social and Economic Change and Prof Rupa Chanda of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore provided me with an opportunity to present my nascent ideas to their knowledgeable team for critique With humility I wish to acknowledge their generosity in providing me with an audience and encouragement Authors know the gap between a manuscript and a book is wide, and for many too wide to cross My friend, Radha Radhakrishnan, put me in touch with Mr Chapal Mehra of Westland who, to my good fortune, liked the topic and commissioned the book In his hands the manuscript underwent rigorous scrutiny from multiple angles, educating me in the process of writing a book like no school can In Ms Shalini Krishan, the editor of the book, I found a refined communicator picking words like a jeweller selects gems and illuminating arguments by cutting the flab and sharpening the focus But for these three, there would be no book, only a manuscript Four years is a long gestation time The support I received from my close friends and family members was unwavering even as the scheduled due date was deferred multiple times Moods swing with the pace of progress, and bearing the brunt of this was my wife, Rajeswari, and our son, Manu Jagan, who patiently put up with my quirky ways, even as they prodded, pushed and encouraged me to complete the book Words are inadequate to express my true feelings for their support Only my name is on the cover, which reflects the limitations of this book Credit for much of what is good in the book goes to those named here and all the shortcomings, to yours faithfully ... but not much of this material has the historical sweep of Shankar Jagnathan’s book, The Wisdom of Ants: A Short History of Economics The Wisdom of Ants is a book on the ‘philosophy’ of economics,... only on the payment of an agreed amount to compensate the lord for the loss of their service Even in the case of the serf ’s death, the eldest son was granted the tenancy only on payment of an... economic issues rather than borrow the views of others (despite the fame or renown of their proponents) I think forming our own views, and not borrowing those of others is at the core of creating a
- Xem thêm -

Xem thêm: The wisdom of ants , The wisdom of ants

Gợi ý tài liệu liên quan cho bạn