ECONOMIC NOTES

Interest Rates and the Use of Cash

FINANCE capital is always opposed to the use of fiscal measures for stimulating an economy. This is because any such fiscal stimulation undermines the social legitimacy of capitalism, and especially of that segment of it which constitutes the world of finance and which is peopled with “functionless investors” in Keynes’ words or of “coupon clippers” in Lenin’s words, ie, of entities that play no role in the production process. If State intervention comes to be seen as necessary for stimulating the economy, then the question may arise in the public mind: why do we need all these entities?

“Government by Discussion”

Professor Amartya Sen in his new book Collective Choice and Social Welfare which is a considerably expanded and updated version of his 1970 book with the same title, emphasizes that democracy must be understood as “government by discussion”. The idea of democracy being “government by discussion” really belongs to John Stuart Mill, though this particular phrase was coined by Walter Bagehot.

Differing Concepts of Populism

The same term is often employed by different people with different meanings, and this can be a source of immense confusion. The World Bank has done this to good effect in the past, taking over terms that are being used in a particular sense, especially by the Left, and using them in a very different sense, in order to create deliberate confusion and exploit in some way the sympathetic feeling that the term had attracted from people in its initial usage. “Structural adjustment” is a prime example of such appropriation by the World Bank.

The 2017-18 Budget: Aggravating Recession

THE annual budget has an impact on the economy over the year it covers; additionally it is also an indicator of the direction of policy of the government for the future years. Any budget has to be judged on both these counts. And on both counts, the Modi government’s 2017-18 budget is ominous for the people. It will worsen the recessionary crisis unleashed above all by the demonetisation measure; and it also portends an economic strategy that, in the face of the protectionism being introduced by Donald Trump, will further import unemployment into the economy.

The Demonetisation Fiasco

THE demonetisation of 86 percent of the currency of the country, a virtually unprecedented  measure anywhere in the world, has brought immense hardship to the working people of the country, and will damage their living standards permanently (since the Modi government plans not to replace the entire value of the demonetised notes by printing new ones). Many however believed that it was a step being taken for the greater social good, for achieving certain important social goals.

The Dialectics of Authoritarianism

WE are seeing in India at present a remarkable inversion of reason. The more the common people suffer from the impact of Modi’s demonetisation, the more he is lauded for the “courage” shown by him in undertaking it. An economic measure should be, and normally is, judged on the basis of how it benefits the people, and any measure that brings distress to the people is derided for that reason. What we find in the present case however is just the opposite: the more demonetisation brings distress to the people, the more it is applauded for its wisdom and courage.

Banks as Victims

IN the outcry against the disastrous demonetisation experiment of the Modi government one aspect that has not been given adequate attention is the damage it has done to the reputation and the balance sheets of the banks. Customers queueing before bank doors and ATMs seem on occasion more forgiving of the government than of the harassed bank employees, who are forced to ration out currency and offer those customers they can accommodate, less than even the maximum withdrawal permitted by the government and the RBI.

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