Monday, 2 August 2010
On David Cameron's India Visit
The new prime minister of Britain, David Cameron, visited India while I was in Hassan, Karnataka, and, especially since he also visited Bangalore, I read all about it in the daily papers. From what I could gather, deals have been struck for 47 fighter jets, for civil nuclear technology and not much else. Luckily, a friend in England had mailed me the link to this story in The Telegraph (UK) on what the British people expected of this visit. It seems that this was primarily a “trade delegation.” David Cameron and his band of merry men were here to do business. Two particular areas of interest mentioned in the report in The Telegraph are retailing and infrastructure. But, from what I could gather, no progress was made on these fronts. So, there has not been any people-to-people trade; there has only been some government-to-government deals. We have been seeing this story replay itself over and over again for 50 years and more.
Perhaps since I was then living right on a city high street – and a devastated one at that – I wondered to myself what would have transpired if the merchants of this street had sent a trade delegation to Britain. They would land in London and immediately rush to check out Oxford Street and its surrounds. They would see all the huge shops – and realize that it takes Big Capital to set up such high street stores. As they walked up and down this very important city street, they would realize that none of the shops there sell fighter jets or nuclear technology. They sell other things, lots of other things – for ordinary people like you and me to buy. They would realize that the Capital Value of their own high street would rise substantially if some of these London retailers could be persuaded to set up their stores in Hassan. They might even approach John Lewis, or Hamley’s, or some of the other establishments there in order to extend a hearty invitation.
Of course, this trade delegation would also visit other parts of London. They would see that this great city is full of “corner shops” owned by Indians and Pakistanis, who survive quite well despite the existence of supermarkets. Maybe they would reflect on the fact that no Indian or Pakistani has yet managed to open a big store on Oxford Street for only one reason: they don’t have the Capital. They would understand the vital need to import Capital into Hassan, and act accordingly.
Indeed, there was a pullout on education in the Deccan Herald one day and I was not surprised to read that “retail management” had already become a hot area of specialized study, thanks to private enterprise in the business of education.
But the people who take decisions in New Delhi do not see these things. These truths. The real interests of the nation taken as a whole. Or even the real interests of the planet taken as a whole. They just sit on thick files. They sit and they sit and they just keep on sitting. I am sure they also call this “socialism.” They are making the whole world a poorer place.
I hope my reader will see the importance of the words “laissez faire,” which means “let free.” Laissez faire capitalism means a State that does NOT get in the way of business. We must take urgent steps to head in that direction. The socialist “decision makers” sitting on files in New Delhi have no business interfering in these vital matters of trade and business, matters upon which so many lives and careers depend. What I realized in Hassan is that we in India need to give up our obsession with New Delhi and focus on the nitty-gritty – local self-government in cities and towns, and the proper building and maintenance of city and town high streets. On my last day in Hassan I found both the ATMs near my lodge out of order and took an auto-rickshaw to the HDFC Bank down the road – and there was no road at all! Just big holes. Above the HDFC Bank was a Bata showroom. Opposite was a steel-and-glass modern building with a branch of State Bank of India on the ground floor. And no road.
And so it was that I also thought of how a trade delegation from Main Street, Hassan, composed entirely of merchants, would do if they went for a drive on Britain’s highways – they call them “motorways” – and even toured around the country roads to enjoy the pretty countryside. They would immediately realize that it is these roads that they most urgently need to import into their area. Great Britain may not have invented the car, but they sure as hell invented the road, for Macadam was a Scot. They invented coal tar and even coal gas – the latter being piped into “gaslit London.” The trade delegation from Hassan would surely invite the interest of British firms in the area of infrastructure – not just roads, but also pipelines for gas in their fair city. No more cylinders being transported up and down Main Street.
My intention in this post has been to show the great error of entrusting the personnel of this socialist State in New Delhi, all of whom love to sit on files and delay progress, with decision-making powers that affect businesses. Public opinion must demand that they get out of the way.
Laissez faire, laissez passer, laissez aller.