Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where do the great economic theories stand?

I was reading an article titled 'Stolen Childhood', by Jayathi Ghosh in The Frontline dated November 17th 2006. The article dealt with the prevalence of child labour, and worryingly it is a curse which is rampantly prevalent in India.

Her opening lines are like pin pricks:

"It is not new for economies to use the productive labour of children. The
history of capitalism is replete with such instances, especially in phases of
rapid industrialisation. Dickensian stories of cheap child labour being
exploited by rapacious early capitalists were some of the cultural staples of
the industrial revolution in England. More recently, child labour has been
widely associated with poverty and seen as a sigh of backwardness."

The last line is true indeed. Human life is something like the famous acceleration-constant speed-deceleration speed vs time graph that one is taught in elementary physics. Childhood is the acceleration phase wherein one gains momentum and learns the tricks of the trade to sustein oneself through the productive phases of life. The constant speed phase can be likened to the earning and active phase and deceleration can be roughly likened to the time between which one loses interest in activity/life itself, to the end of one's life.

Now imagine that someone tries to shorten your acceleration period and tries to make you reach the same speed that you would have achieved in the normal course of time. Definitely, it will lead to stress/strain and most certainly you will be robbed of precious time in which you could have assimilated something more useful.

This is a sign of desperation which is a direct fall-out of poverty. Its only when you are in poverty that we observe the incidence of child labour. At the other end of the spectrum, lies the ogre of wealth and greed. So, child labour is not only a result of poverty alone, but a result of poverty which comes into direct contact with 'greedy wealth'.

Why does poverty exist? Capitalists blame the communists and the communists blame the capitalists. In the middle of this great circus we have numerous economists who are worshipped by many (students, Nobel prize committees, bloggers etc) who try to explain why things are so.

But people, you just forgot that for all the sophisticated models that you build trying to explain which way the quantifying numbers of an economy swing, there is one thing which you can never model..naah, make that two.. HONESTY and SCRUPLES. With these two quantities assumed in your models, but most of the time absent in real life, it isn't a wonder that the growth that you perceive doesn't percolate to all strata of society.

No comments: