March 09, 2005

Self Delusion

The Telegraph, 09.03.05

Delusion rules in Sunanda K. Datta-Ray’s “Out of service” (Feb 26), where the author argues that wealth creation is given a backseat in the United States of America or the United Kingdom. Perhaps the author has forgotten that the two countries he mentions have the most business-friendly environment in the entire developed world, except possibly Japan. The UK is the country where Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Laxmi Mittal, and so on are venerated. The US is the nation which produced Microsoft, General Motors, IBM, WalMart. The author confuses the idea of good governance with wealth generation. All the problems he mentions — at the post office, bank or government departments — are organs of the colossal Leviathan the Indian state has become. Because the British and American governments limit themselves to maintaining law and order and operating basic public services, it is able to focus better and consequently provide acceptable services.

In India, the state not only does the above, but also runs hotels, steel mills and airports. No wonder it has failed to perform on all fronts. The so called “quality” which Datta-Ray talks about, would return to Indian society only when the people are given a free hand in generating wealth. Innovation would follow from this, and not from the hope that the state would perform a miracle.

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