India and Her Critics
Shlaes does an excellent job describing India’s progress since abandoning the socialist model that was fashionable in the West (and the world) at the time of India’s independence. However, she defends this success on utilitarian grounds and concedes the high-ground to her critics who “want to moralize.” This totally misses the problem. The virulent ferocity with which the left wants to destroy America, Israel, and now India suggests that the problem isn’t their flawed understanding of economics but a deep moral malady.
A top executive from India, Gurcharan Das, answers his leftist critics: “Everyone doesn't rise equally, but eventually studies have shown all boats do rise.” This, of course, will never satisfy the collectivist egalitarian morality. The general beneficial nature of broad-based economic progress can’t address the fundamental collectivism and altruism of those who damn capitalism as a “den of inequity.” This isn’t a mere mistake about economic theory. It’s a disagreement about goals, ethics, and what makes life meaningful.
Is Shlaes wrong to tout the economic success of India? Of course not! Such success is to be expected of a liberal economy. But it is not the criterion. This is an important point that Ayn Rand makes best in her book: Capitalism the Unknown Ideal. Capitalism, the social system that respects individual rights, lays the groundwork for a high level of economic success because it respects the source of human efficacy: the individual human mind. Reason is man’s tool of survival and it is an attribute of the individual requiring the cultivation by a lifetime of initiative in thought and practice. To be alive is to be actively initiating rational action in producing one’s values.
The new leaders in India may implicitly grasp a pro-life philosophy and they’ll make substantial progress imitating the market economies in the West. However, progress will only reach a fraction of its potential unless it is freed from the moral shackles of collectivism. Without a moral defense, advocates of a liberal economy will be worn-down by leftist moral badgering. Without a moral defense the entitlement philosophy of the left will mobilize the mob to cannibalize its most productive citizens. India needs more than an economic rationale if it is to become the great nation that she deserves to be. India needs the moral confidence of a reality-based rationally-sound defense of individual rights.