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Retaining Balance – The essence of Economics

M R Venkatesh popularly known as (MRV) is one of India’s leading Advocate on economic-criminal laws and a much sought-after legal professional. He is also a keen student of economics and politics. As a professional, he has been an advisor to several corporates and promoters on complex transactions involving cross-disciplinary expertise.

 He has authored Global Imbalances and the impending Dollar crisis, [TR Publications, 2007], Sense, Sensex and Sentiments – Failure of India’s Financial Sentinels [KW Publishers, 2011] and Dr. Manmohan Singh – A Decade of Decay – [Rare Book Publishers, 2013]. He is regular panellist in leading channels in India and also a columnist in various print media. His book titled Sense, Sensex and Sentiments has been acknowledged by experts as one of the pioneering works in the field of Anti-Money Laundering.

 GoaChronicle.com interviewed MRV on his upcoming book “Retaining Balance – The eternal way” which interlinks family, culture and civilisation to economics.

 GoaChronicle.com: What is the aim of Retaining Balance?

MRV: At the outset I need to make an upfront confession to my reader. I was never formally trained in the discipline of economics. Nevertheless, economics, as a subject, has always excited me. Each time I delve deeper into the subject, I become more convinced about a fascinating fact surrounding it – that it has never been understood in all its dimensions even by the very experts who proclaim to have mastered it. And one of the significant issues surrounding the discipline of economics is that it is completely delinked from civilizational and cultural perspectives.

This incompleteness of the understanding of a complex subject is the issue on hand. Influenced by what I experienced on a daily basis I began assimilating my views on economics from cultural as well as civilizational standpoints. It is therefore natural that it appears to me that the discipline of economics, bereft of civilizational values, is fast imploding. Economists too of late have been near unanimous in their view that they do not have the necessary answers even to some of the most pressing challenges posed to their respective national economies. Retaining Balance attempts to seek answers for such convoluted questions.

GoaChronicle.com: What was the thought behind linking family, culture, and civilisation to economics?

MRV: While dealing with the interplay of civilisation and culture with economics, I also realised that most modern theories, not merely in economics but also in several other “disciplines,” owe their origins to Christian theology. Consequently, several contemporary ideas emanating from the western world are built around a Christian idea of a “broken self” that constantly requires external intermediation for its “salvation”. That explains the importance to governments and markets in modern economics. Thus, what is predominantly a Christian view of the discipline of economics became over time the western thought or understanding of the world, which subsequently became the acceptable global order! And this idea is not merely limited to economics. It permeates the entire constitutional construct in the western countries which has been adopted in substantial measure by India too. Retaining Balance addresses this skew in our understanding of ourselves.

 GoaChronicle.com: How would you justify Ram Rajya in the modern world?

MRV: Mahatma Gandhi at various times, vocally propounded the concept of an ideal state. He did not hesitate to call that as Ram Rajya, implying it to be a system of good governance where duties preceded rights, both for the state and the individual. He surely implied an ideal post independent government where values of justice, equality, idealism, renunciation and sacrifice are practised, both by the state and its citizens. Ramayana and Mahabharath, the unparalleled epics of our nation are replete with such sagacious advice on good and ideal governance as well as the disciplined, duty-conscious and cultured lifestyles of the people. And that to me justifies Ram Rajya in more ways than one in the modern world.

 GoaChronicle.com: What should readers expect from this book?

MRV: Policy framers now realise that for too long, the “battle for the commanding heights of the economy” has been, at best, binary. In the absence of a viable alternative to the dominance of governments [socialism] or markets [liberalism], the world of economics has invariably alternated between the two grand ideas posited by Keynes and Hayek. The resultant oscillation in the macroeconomic policy formulation across the globe in the past fifty-years has been more out of sheer compulsion, than any conviction. In the process, the solution to every economic crisis contained the seeds for the next. Retaining Balance seeks to address precisely this shortcoming.

 GoaChronicle.com: Why do you think ignoring family, culture, and civilisation resulted in fatal flaws of economics?

 MRV: I put forth the argument that Bhartiya civilisation has repeatedly emphasised on the individual, his actions, enterprise and his efforts. However, I must hasten to add that the individual in Bhartiya civilization is not completely atomised without any regulatory or supervisory oversight. This is where the importance of family and society comes to play – both as a functional and as an oversight body. And this makes us culturally different and the global economic order arising out of Christian theology, unworkable. Retaining Balance therefore argues that the macroeconomic policies pursued by the government of India needs to factor these differentials.

GoaChronicle.com: How is this book different from other economics books? What would you like to address our readers?

MRV: Rarely does a book on economics place any emphasis on individual duties while dealing with the discipline. Ideally, the levels of responsibility cast on every citizen should be no less to his rights. But when the citizens themselves contrive to dilute such responsivity levels by the very edifice that unites them in the first place – also known as constitution – the consequences are indeed disastrous. The framers of Indian constitution who encapsulated the various fundamental rights to its basic structure, strangely ignored our civilizational emphasis on duties. Thus, placing rights at the centre of our constitution we spawned an omnipotent state. To counterbalance the emergence of the omnipotent state, we allowed the proliferation of individual rights. And all our economic policies are assiduously built on this premise of individual rights. Such a constitutional arrangement may suit the British, or for that matter the Americans even today, but cannot be thrust on a nation which has deep-rooted civilizational values, especially on individual duties. This gives rise to a new fault line – between an Indian who swears by his constitutional right while dealing with the state and a Bhartiya, who adheres to his duties. Retaining Balance addresses this bi-polar disorder afflicting each one of us.

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