Na­tional Char­ac­ter

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas - WIL­LIAM & DE­BRA MILLER

Sev­eral years ago, we met Kapil Jawa, an MBA stu­dent. He shared with us a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject he had re­searched for his the­sis: a val­ues-based ap­proach to mea­sur­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Just as eco­nomic growth is nec­es­sary for hu­man de­vel­op­ment, hu­man de­vel­op­ment is crit­i­cal to eco­nomic growth.

One of the most star­tling things he demon­strated was that the lack of wealth was not the bar­rier to over­com­ing our world’s hunger, poverty and so­cial prob­lems. Cit­ing data from the UN World and Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Re­ports1998, he showed that in 1997, Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans to­gether spent more on cos­met­ics, per­fumes and pet foods than it would have taken to pro­vide re­pro­duc­tive health, ba­sic health and nu­tri­tion for all peo­ple on the planet. And mil­i­tary spend­ing in the same pe­riod was 20 times that.

Kapil pointed out that Kau­tilya’s Arthashas­tra in­spired the re­vival of many king­doms af­ter his reign. The health­i­est state of af­fairs was one in which val­ues higher than worldly pos­ses­sions re­ceived hon­our and ap­proval; max­i­mum pro­duc­tion was not the supreme ob­jec­tive of the eco­nomic or­gan­i­sa­tion; com­merce or wealth-mak­ing was not an end in it­self; and mer­chants and man­u­fac­tur­ers car­ried out their ac­tiv­i­ties in a trust for the so­ci­ety they lived in. The word eco­nomics comes from the Greek word oikonomos, or “house­hold man­age­ment”. When we be­gin to man­age our com­pa­nies and our economies with the same char­ac­ter and in­ter­est as we would our house­holds, it be­comes easy to build the gross na­tional char­ac­ter.

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