Posted in Drama, economics, governance, history, Islamists, macro, micro, movies, politics, South Asia by jrahman on March 8, 2013

Seven trashes collected by the senses.


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Inequality and exploitation in India

Posted in development, economic history, economics, history, institutions, South Asia by jrahman on May 21, 2012

Without the raj, none would have calculated deficit and surplus … even in those days no-Indians did calculate those. Even if money would have stayed in India, it would have been used in something else than development. The modern way of development was never in Indian genes before raj kicked in …

That’s Diganta’s comment in the post on the Raj.  This goes really to the heart of the debate about the economic history of British India.  While nationalist writers point to the possibility of an indigenous industrial revolution sans imperialism, others counter that there was nothing in pre-British India that suggests the likelihood of such possibility.  Here is one recent example of this debate.

Work by Branko Milanovic, a World Bank economist and expert on inequality, and colleagues can help shed some light on the matter.  His innovations in the study of inequality are the inequality possibility frontier and the inequality  extraction ratio.  The first concept is a measure of maximum possible inequality in a society — essentially, an economy that is on the inequality possibility frontier is where most people (say ‘the 99%’) are on subsistence, while the rest of the income accrues to the elite (say ‘the 1%’).  The inequality extraction ratio compares the actual inequality in an economy with the maximum possible given its income level.

This paper explains the concept — the algebra is quite easy for economics, and for the non-initiated, there is a lot of intuitive explanation.  An economy that is very close to the frontier, and thus has a ratio near 1, is where there isn’t any surplus left in the hands of the non-elite.  And not only Milanovic and colleagues theorise about these concepts, they have also calculated them for a number of societies in history, with two entries for India — in 1750 and 1947, bracketing the Raj.


The political economy of the Raj

Posted in economic history, economics, history, South Asia by jrahman on May 7, 2012

I was looking through some old correspondence, and I decided to do this post apropos nothing.  Basically, I want to jot down my understanding of the literature on the political economy of the British Indian Empire at its zenith — the last quarter of the 19th century.  This is not a literature review.  I amnot an expert on the subject.  Winston Churchill’s take on the subject was very different from Pundit Nehru’s, and Amartya Sen and Niall Ferguson don’t agree on it either — so if you disagree with what I say, you probably have very good reasons on your side.


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