Why is India Poor? (Note #382)

What India is today is to a large extent the result of policy choices made by its leaders — especially post India’s independence. Prior to 1947, India’s fortunes were dictated by the British. The British were in India for — not to put too fine a point on it — looting the place. That is totally understandable. Every institution they created was directed towards the final goal of enriching themselves. Colonizers don’t go about colonizing foreign lands out of a sense of altruism. They do it for the moolah.

After independence, however, Indian policy was in the hands of Indians. What were the objectives of these Indians who stood at the helm? I really don’t know. What motivated them? I don’t know for sure. What were their declared motives? I believe it was to lead India to prosperity. Cha-cha Nehru said as much in his famous Tryst with Destiny speech. Talk is cheap. Especially pretty talk. Talk about scaling commanding heights is pretty as a picture, and as cheap as a picture. I have written critically about Cha-cha Nehru and his talk elsewhere. (See Nehru, the Nabob of Cluelessness, for instance.)

Justice Louis Brandeis wrote (Olmstead v US, 1928):

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

I remind myself that the British were the evil minded rulers that all were naturally wary of. What Indians did not realize is the danger of men like Nehru and his descendents.

Despite all Nehru’s pretty speeches, I believe he was motivated by a deep megalomanical zeal to command and control.

Shakespeare’s Mark Anothony says at Ceasar’s funeral, “The evil that men do, lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Well, we do have the evil they did living after them. My wish is that their pretty speeches were also interred with their bones.