As we move towards a greater understanding of indigenous knowledge systems we realise the importance of true history. “History is something we all do, …we do not always realise it. We want to make sense of our own lives and often wonder about our place in our own societies…… So we tell ourselves stories…… Without knowing the history of slavery and the discrimination and frequent violence that blacks suffered even after emancipation, we cannot begin to grasp the complexities of the relationship between the races …..” says Margaret Macmillan in her book The Uses and Abuses of History. History, according to her teaches us to look within ourselves. She says, “If the study of history does nothing more than teach us humility, scepticism and awareness of ourselves, then it has done something useful. We must continue to examine our own assumptions and those of others and ask, where’s the evidence? Or , is there another explanation? We should be wary of grand claims in hisory’s name or those who claim to have uncovered the truth once and for all. In the end, my only advice is use it, enjoy it, but always handle history with care.” Our history books are full of tales of wars, exploitation, gathering of wealth and sophistication and stories of personalities who are either raised to the level of perfection or trashed to the dust bin.
J.C. Kumarappa, an economist and historian and Mahatma Gandhi’s right hand man, had been a chartered accountant who qualified in Britain and lived a life of luxury. According to a short biography of the author in his book, Public Finance and our Poverty, “He underwent a complete metamorphosis and changed his entire lifestyle after he joined Gandhiji in 1929,” He gave up his luxurious lifestyle to live in simplicity in the ashram, he gave up a thriving business to work for the people and for the freedom of his country, and dedicated his life to building village industry. Such was his dedication to both Gandhiji and to the cause of the struggle of the Indian people, that he was prepared to sacrifice everything he had to dedicate his life to the cause of liberation.
Kumarappa describes the early Indian state. He speaks about the ancient history when people paid tithes to the king who in turn took care of his people. There was a relationship between the king and his people based on a contract. This then was the basis of public finance. He goes on to say, “There is hardly any other department of Government so closely related to the wellbeing of the nation, in the long run, as that of public finance. Indeed when fiscal science is the handmaiden of public spirited and far sighted statesmen, it could be the making of a powerful nation, but when mishandled, it could also be the ruination of a flourishing people.”
Kumarappa goes on to look at economies of permanence and he describes the various types of economies into which we all fit. Take a look and see which economy you fit into:
- Parasitic Economy: For instance a robber who murders a child to obtain some valuable that the child may have. Such a person is motivated by greed. His or her intention is to benefit himself or herself regardless of any injury their actions may cause to others. The emphasis is wholly on his/her own rights and an absence of recognition of their duties. There is an absence of any altruistic values and violence is used as a means, harming if not destroying the source of benefit.
- Predatory Economy: Think of a pickpocket who robs his/her victim without making them aware of their loss. He/she is motivated by selfishness. Their intention is to benefit themselves but without causing much harm to their victim. His/her emphasis is on their own rights with little or no recognition of duties. There is a total absence of altruistic values so the predator benefits without contribution.
- Economy of enterprise: Imagine an agriculturalist who ploughs the land, manures and irrigates it, sows selected seeds, watches over the crop then reaps and enjoys his/her harvest. He/she is motivated by enlightened self interest and ambition. His/her sense of self-respect demands his/her contributing their personal labour, thought and effort taking only the benefit so occasioned. Such a person might also have a desire to benefit co-workers and others too. There is an attempt at looking at rights of all and an increasing recognition of duties to others. Their work is based on a sense of justice and fair play; they are adventurous and willing to take risks.
- Economy of gregation: Here we are referring to a member of a family working for the good of the family as a whole, or a member of a cooperative working for the group. They are motivated not by individual self interest but by the common interest of the group. They submit to the group even if required to sacrifice their own interest. Their emphasis is on duties and altruistic values. In this economy contribution to the group is of greater importance than one’s own share or benefit.
- Economy of Service: This might be a relief worker motivated by the good of others even if the work seems detrimental to self interest. What is seen as important is pressing forward to perform one’s duties unconscious of one’s rights. Such an economy is usually based on love and a desire to serve without reward.
We can identify our various roles and fit them into these categories to understand the nature of what we are doing. Ultimately it is our worldview and consciousness that will determine our actions and our life style.
An economy of permanence is where every individual takes responsibility, carries out his/her duty and works together with other people in a cooperative spirit. In such an economy no one will starve because everyone takes care of each other, no one will be homeless or without work as there will always be work. People will live in colonies or settlements. Such an economy will always thrive. What a heavenly world would that be? Can we strive towards such a world? Perhaps by strengthening civil society and working concertedly towards such a goal we will be able to achieve it.