Unexpectedly Intriguing!
02 November 2005

As Friedrich Hayek might have noted, the road to serfdom is often paved with the twisted intentions of the people who desire control over others. Fareed Zakaria, considered by Esquire to be one of the 21 most important people in the 21st century, stumbled onto Hayek's road in discussing the bright and dark sides of globalization (HT: Yale Global via PSD Blog) - emphasis mine:

India and China actually highlight the bright side of globalization. In the last thirty years, since India and China have moved towards markets and embraced globalization, more people have been moved out of poverty than in the previous six decades. That’s a massive accomplishment.

Of course, globalization has a dark side. It increases development, which means pollution, urbanisation, sprawl, building, and the destruction of communities. But that cannot mean one wants to stop development. It is scandalous that urban intellectuals, living privileged lives, want to stop people from getting out of poverty.

The intelligent discussion is about what kind soft shock absorbers and safety nets one can put in place that allow for the creative energy of capitalism but minimise its downsides. It’s a case-by-case process. I don’t believe there is any one thing that one should do. Above all, you need competent and honest government. But that’s a tall order.

The danger in India is that this becomes an excuse for protectionism and political payoffs. Giving rich farmers free electricity is not a shock absorber. It is a bribe for votes. It means the poor get less attention and resources. The great tragedy in India today is that the rhetoric of poverty alleviation is used to justify policies that benefit the rich and well-organized. What the poor need more than anything else is a functioning economy and a government that is not bankrupting itself in buying votes.

While Fareed Zakaria's words apply specifically to India, how hard is it to find domestic equivalents of Zakaria's "urban intellectuals" in your country? In your state? In your city?

Something to think about....

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